By Shelley Grieshop
The mayor of St. Marys has avoided jail but lost his driver's license for six months after pleading no contest Wednesday to drunken driving.
Gregory B. Freewalt, 57, 1015 W. High St., was given a 20-day jail term, which was immediately suspended by Auglaize County Municipal Court Judge Gary W. Herman in the Wapakoneta courtroom.
Freewalt was found to be driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.155 percent when pulled over for a traffic stop by St. Marys police early Sunday morning. The legal limit for motorists in Ohio is 0.08.
Herman also suspended $500 of a $750 fine imposed during the Wednesday afternoon sentencing. Freewalt will remain under court-ordered probation until December 2008.
The St. Marys City mayor was charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol during the traffic stop at 12:48 a.m. on Spruce Street. Patrolman Andy Liming also cited Freewalt for failure to drive in marked lanes (weaving). Freewalt reportedly had a few alcoholic drinks while out with friends Saturday evening before getting behind the wheel of his 2000 Dodge pickup truck.
St. Marys City Safety Service Director Mike Weadock said the charges and sentencing will have no effect on the mayor's job status with the city.
"Well, first of all, he's not a full-time mayor," Weadock said, explaining that Freewalt works for Omni Manufacturing in St. Marys. "But it certainly doesn't simplify his life."
Freewalt, a retired teacher, will be harder on himself about the incident than anyone else could be, Weadock added.
"He's done an awful lot of good for the city over the years and people shouldn't let this one thing cancel out all that," he added.
Freewalt, who was elected mayor in November 1995, could not be reached for comment.
Court documents show Freewalt was charged with four other traffic offenses since taking over as mayor -- three of them were for speeding in 2001, 2003 and most recently in May. The other traffic violation for illegal starting and backing occurred in 1996.
Terms of Freewalt's probation include the completion and compliance of a 72-hour driver intervention program by March 2006, and a victim impact panel presentation by Nov. 17. He also must submit to random alcohol testing when requested and not commit any criminal or traffic offenses resulting in jail for the next three years.
If Freewalt violates any of the probation terms, the initial jail term and fine could be enforced and/or an extension of the probation period, court documents state.