Embattled Mesa City Council member Ryan Winkle apologized for making a bad decision that led to his arrest in Tempe on charges of driving under the influence and announced he will take a leave of absence.
Winkle said that he will use the leave to address his legal situation and that he and his wife, Ericka Varela, are undergoing counseling. He pleaded for understanding, forgiveness and an opportunity to redeem himself with fellow city council members and voters.
“It was a series of events that ended with me not making the right choice. Now, I have to make amends,” Winkle said during an interview with Mary Rabago, a Spanish-language journalist with a background in broadcasting.
“I just really want to really apologize, and I hope you will work with me to redeem myself,” Winkle said.
Winkle said he did not seek counseling after his 2008 arrest in Scottsdale for driving under the influence, even though he served jail time because it was an extreme DUI, with a blood-alcohol reading in excess of 0.15 percent.
Tempe police are awaiting the results of Winkle’s latest blood test, which will determine if additional charges could be filed.
Winkle promised that this time, he has a far different attitude as a 38-year-old man, a father, a husband and a public office holder.
“This will change my life,” Winkle said. “This time, I am seeking some professional help.”
The Mesa City Council is scheduled to discuss Winkle’s arrest at a study session on Thursday. A code of conduct for council members allows for progressive discipline that could include a censure, a suspension or removal from office.
Mayor John Giles was flooded with emails after Winkle’s arrest, with some people calling for Winkle’s removal from office, arguing that he is unfit to serve and has betrayed the public trust. Others argued that Winkle brings fresh energy to the council, represents minorities who previously had no voice and deserves a second chance.
“I will be taking a voluntary leave of absence to take care of the legal stuff. The city council does not need this distraction,” Winkle said, with his wife sitting next to him. “For the next four years, I expect to look forward to working for District 3 and the City of Mesa in general.”
–Reach Jim Walsh at 480-898-5639 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.