UPDATE: Gwinnett commission chairman arrested for DUI

ATLANTA – Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charles Bannister was charged with DUI Monday, but he insists he will be “completely exonerated.”

Bannister was driving a county-owned car when he was arrested at about 8 p.m. on Monday by a Gwinnett County sheriff’s deputy; he was booked into the county jail on two charges – DUI and improper turning, jail records indicate. According to an AJC report, the deputy responded to a tip that Bannister had a number of beers at a Lilburn restaurant.

“I regret that this matter has occurred,” Bannister said in a statement. “I am making the results of the state-administered breath test results public which indicates that the machine was working properly and the test results were 0, which indicates no presence of alcohol in my system.

“I apologize to the residents of Gwinnett County, my colleagues, and my family for any embarrassment this has caused,” he added. “In the end, I am confident I will be completely exonerated.”

According to the police report, Banister indicated he had a beer at the restaurant. “I can’t believe this is all over one to two beers,” Bannister said at one point, according to the police report, which also indicates the chairman was unable to successfully complete field sobriety tests.

The chairman on Tuesday vowed not to drive a county vehicle until the matter is resolved, and he turned his keys over to Gwinnett County Administrator Glenn Stephens.

“Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charles Bannister has voluntarily surrendered the key to his county-issued vehicle to me,” Stephens said in a statement. “I have directed that the car be returned to the Gwinnett County fleet until the matter has been resolved.”

In a statement to the Gwinnett Daily Post, Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway said he stands “behind the actions the deputy took last night.”

“Based on the totality of the circumstances – which include witness statements, restaurant employee statements, the statements of Chairman Bannister, the odor of alcohol on his breath and the failure of the field sobriety tests – the deputy did not feel that the breath test revealed an accurate reading,” the sheriff said. “He made the decision to get a blood test and to charge him with DUI based on his observations at the scene, at the jail and from the independent witness statements inside the restaurant.”

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