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SHERIDAN — It has been nearly three months since the April 26 drunk driving arrest of Sheridan City Councilor Shelleen Smith.
There have been no official calls for Smith to resign her seat on Council, but this week, following her guilty plea July 11, the release of police records regarding the incident and a Council meeting Monday, one councilman has issued a statement saying that he does not support Smith’s behavior or the lack of acknowledgement by elected city officials.
“I do not agree with the attitude to pretend nothing has happened,” City Councilman Levi Dominguez, Ward 3, wrote in his statement received by The Sheridan Press Thursday.
Dominguez told The Sheridan Press that he has not directly asked Smith to resign her position as a city councilor, believing it would be more appropriate for Smith’s constituents to ask her to step down if that is how they feel. He did note that he would resign if he were in the same situation.
“Personally, if I committed the same wrongdoing, I would step down as a city councilor. I strongly encourage any elected official to consider resigning from office after such an offense,” Dominguez said in his statement.
“I understand that personal life should and can be private,” Dominguez continued. “But as elected officials we are held to a higher standard. For me that higher standard is simple, ‘Lead by example.’”
Dominguez noted that a city employee with a similar offense can be subject to immediate discipline or dismissal. However, members of Sheridan City Council have no legal authority to remove a Council member following a DUI arrest.
In a statement to The Sheridan Press this morning, Smith said she regrets her actions but does not wish to step down.
“My focus remains my family, on the important issues facing our city, and on the citizens I represent,” Smith wrote in her statement. “It is my intent to redouble my effort in serving the people of our community and move forward with enthusiasm as a city councilor.”
The day of her arrest, Smith issued a written statement apologizing for her behavior and saying she would accept the consequences of her actions. On April 29, Smith entered a written not guilty plea, and on July 11, she changed her plea to guilty at her trial in Sheridan County Circuit Court.
Smith noted Friday that her decision to initially enter a not guilty plea was standard legal procedure. Since the results of her blood alcohol test were not yet available, she said she didn’t want to plead guilty to something that may not be supported by evidence.
“I deeply regret my actions of this past April,” Smith wrote in her statement to The Sheridan Press on Friday. “That night has forever altered my life, and no one feels worse about it than I , nor better understands the consequences of my decision. I have seen firsthand how painful the outcome of drinking and driving can be, and it is my hope that I can help others avoid a similar fate.
“I know I have disappointed many people, including my family, and I have done my very best to take responsibility and to make amends,” Smith continued. “A fortunate trait of our American culture is the way we can make a mistake, dust off, and get back in the saddle. And in the process gain wisdom.”
Following the incident, Mayor Dave Kinskey and Ward 2 City Councilman Alex Lee both told The Sheridan Press they wished to withhold comment until all facts about the case had been released.
This morning, Lee submitted a written statement.
“The Council has a lot of work to do. The community wants us to focus on turning this economy around and we are focused,” Lee wrote in his statement. “Shelleen Smith was arrested and accepted the consequences and now back to work.”
Kinskey echoed similar sentiments in response to Smith’s statement this morning.
“Shelleen’s statement says it all. She messed up. She accepts responsibility, faces the consequences and wants to get back to work,” Kinskey said. “I agree we have a lot of big issues facing the community, and we need to stay focused on rebuilding our economy as it continues to struggle. I respect her decision to continue to serve her constituents and take the road to redemption by hard work.”
Fellow Ward 1 Councilman John Heath told The Sheridan Press Thursday that he thought Smith had issued an apology in Council proceedings following her arrest, urging that the whole story be told.
Smith, however, told The Sheridan Press Friday that she had never spoken about the arrest during official Council business, feeling it was not proper to bring a private matter into public proceedings. Smith did note that she spoke with Council members in chambers prior to or following an official meeting.
Asked for further comment, Heath said he preferred not to get involved.
“I don’t get involved with my Council’s personal lives,” Heath said. “It stays right there, in my opinion. There was no fraud. It’s very simple. It’s her personal life.”
Councilor Kristin Kelly also noted she preferred to withhold judgment. She said Smith has shown leadership abilities on Council and through her many years of volunteer service in the community.
“Though public figures are held to a higher standard, and it is a choice to participate in leadership, I believe that everyone can be fallible and if we want to encourage community members to get involved it is important to understand that not every choice will be 100 percent, though that would be ideal,” Kelly wrote in her statement. “Again, I feel that it is a personal matter, that said I do not condone the incident, but I feel that the Council can continue to work together to constantly improve the quality of life in Sheridan.”
Smith was elected to represent Ward 1 in Sheridan City Council last November. Her ward encompasses the largely residential northwest portion of the city.
Aside from Sheridan City Council, Smith has been active in organizations including the nonprofit North Main Association, the city of Sheridan Planning Commission and the Sheridan County Fair Association.
• See the attached full written statements submitted by Smith, Dominguez, Kelly and Lee, visit thesheridanpress.com.
Sheridan Press reporter Paolo Cisneros contributed to this report.
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