Ferndale building inspector resigns after DUI arrest

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 1, 2013 

FERNDALE - The city's former building inspector was obviously impaired when he crashed a city truck into a house on his way to work, according to arrest records provided by the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office.

Craig A. Bryant, 58, resigned on Wednesday, May 1, about six weeks after his DUI arrest while on the job and in his own neighborhood, just outside Ferndale. Bryant, Ferndale's longest-serving employee, worked for the city for 23 years.

Bryant did not return a phone message Wednesday seeking comment.

On March 21 Bryant left his home on Park Street to return to work after lunch when he lost control of the 2004 Ford F-150 pickup truck he was driving. It crashed into the cement front porch of a house on the corner of Paradise Drive and Paradise Road, the arrest report said. The house was less than 1/4 mile from Bryant's home.

Bryant had cuts on his face but was not seriously hurt, the deputy's report said. The city-owned truck had suspension damage and was totaled, city spokesman Sam Taylor said. The insurance company paid $4,100 for the vehicle. The city absorbed a $10,000 deductible.

The deputy's report said "it was obvious" Bryant was intoxicated after a field sobriety test.

Two breath tests taken at the jail shortly after 4 p.m. - about two hours after the crash - showed Bryant's blood-alcohol content to be .055 and .054 - under the legal limit but possibly compounded by prescription drugs in his system, Undersheriff Jeff Parks said.

Bryant told the deputy that the previous night he had taken a generic form of the painkiller Percocet and triazolam, a prescription sleep aid, according to the report. He also told the deputy he had about six ounces of whiskey at lunch.

Bryant spent the night in jail and was released on bail. His next district court hearing is May 21.

He was placed on paid administrative leave the day of his arrest, then placed on medical leave on April 3. He was returned to paid administrative leave on April 22, Taylor said.

Mayor Gary Jensen responded to people who criticized the city for paying Bryant for several weeks after his arrest.

"It can't be like the private sector where we're immediate. We have to go through some procedures," particularly with union employees, Jensen said. "I think we actually were pretty quick on it."

Jensen grew up with Bryant, and they crossed paths often. The two worked in three different jobs together over the years, Jensen said. The mayor said he was convinced alcohol had only recently become a problem for Bryant.

"There's that balance where you know his family, you know his children and you want the best for him," Jensen said. "The other side is, you have to do what is best for the city and the taxpayers I represent."

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Read his politics blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/politics or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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