NEW PALESTINE, Ind. (WISH) — A town employee previously questioned about record-keeping errors pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drunken driving charge but was not immediately removed from his position.
Stephen Pool, 59, the street commissioner for the town of New Palestine, was sentenced Jan. 16 in Shelby Superior Court.
He received a 10-day jail sentence and a 355-day suspended sentence to be served on probation. His driver’s license was suspended for a total of three years.
Special conditions of Pool’s probation include completing an alcohol and drug assessment program and agreeing not to consume or possess any beer, wine or liquor, according to court documents obtained by News 8.
Pool was arrested in Sept. 2019 and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated after driving his truck into a Shelby County creek.
Deputies dispatched to the crash scene noted the smell of alcohol coming from Pool and asked for his license; he handed them a credit card, according to the probable cause affidavit.
Pool told deputies he had five alcoholic beverages and was heading to Indiana Grand Racing & Casino, charging documents state.
A breath test revealed Pool’s blood-alcohol content to be 0.115. He failed three field sobriety tests and initially refused to submit to a blood test.
“Mistakes happen,” said Jenny Jessen, a New Palestine resident. “But unfortunately, as an adult, that’s not the type of mistake that you just make. It was a conscious decision to drink and get behind the wheel of a vehicle. That’s not the type of person I want representing the community.”
She called for town officials to replace the disgraced street commissioner with a more appropriate role model for her daughter, a freshman at New Palestine High School, and other impressionable children in the “family-oriented” community.
Another longtime resident called Pool’s drunken driving arrest “an embarrassment to the community.”
The town manager and council president did not immediately respond to requests for comment from News 8.
New Palestine councilors had previously stated they would wait until Pool was sentenced to make personnel decisions in response to his arrest.
His sentencing came days after town officials questioned him about record-keeping errors that began before he commenced his three-year tenure as street commissioner.
Miles of unreported roads resulted in the municipality missing out on an estimated $200,000 to $500,000 in tax revenue over several years. The money would have funded local road maintenance, officials said.
Pool failed to note the mistakes until state transportation officials denied the town’s 2019 bid for a Community Crossing Grant.
Jessen, an advocate for street upgrades including safer crosswalks at New Palestine schools, said the oversight was “shocking.”
“It’s pretty unsettling,” she told News 8. “It just makes you wonder where the money could have been used.”
She and her daughter called for increased investment in safety upgrades at a crosswalk on U.S. 52, near New Palestine High School. A 14-year-old student was struck by a vehicle and critically injured at the crosswalk in Nov. 2019 while riding his bicycle to school.
Jessen was one of the first parents at the scene of the accident and rushed to calm students who witnessed the victim “being flung into the air,” she said.
“It’s something I will never, ever forget, just watching that young man lying there,” Jessen told News 8. “There are areas that could definitely use some improvement.”
Residents deserve a street commissioner they can trust to drive on — and advocate for — the streets of New Palestine, she said.
(Photo provided by WISH-TV.)
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