Ferndale public works director on leave after DUI arrest

Ferndale’s new public works director was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after an officer caught him attempting to start his car while holding an open can of beer around 1 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4, police said.

Chad Bedlington, 41, was hired as Ferndale’s public works director in September 2014. His 6-month probationary period ended at the beginning of February, and a $95,000-per-year contract was approved during a City Council meeting Jan. 28.

Bedlington is the former superintendent of maintenance and operations for the city of Bellingham. He left the job in early 2013 to be public works director for the Kalispel Tribe of Indians in Eastern Washington before accepting the same position in Ferndale a year later.

Employees at Poppe’s 360 Neighborhood Pub called police around 12:15 a.m. Wednesday with concerns that Bedlington was about to drive home drunk, Bellingham police spokesman Lt. Bob Vander Yacht said. The pub is located inside Best Western Lakeway Inn, 714 Lakeway Drive.

The employees told police that Bedlington had been arguing with other customers and appeared to be intoxicated. They told Bedlington to leave and threatened to call police if he attempted to drive.

Bedlington started his car and drove “a few feet” before stopping, Vander Yacht said. Officers then arrived and offered to arrange a ride home, but Bedlington refused and said he would walk home. The officer let Bedlington walk away but kept an eye on the car to make sure he would not try to retrieve it.

A half hour later, Bedlington returned to his car while holding an open can of beer, Vander Yacht said. The officer stopped Bedlington as he prepared to start the car. He was argumentative with the officer and smelled strongly of alcohol, Vander Yacht said. He refused to take a Breathalyzer test or a field sobriety test.

It is unclear how much alcohol Bedlington consumed. Based on the probable cause statement, one witness said Bedlington had a beer at Poppe’s, left for about an hour, and returned to drink more alcohol, Vander Yacht said. The Lakeway Inn declined to comment further Wednesday.

Vander Yacht, who sometimes worked with Bedlington during his time with the city of Bellingham, said he hopes Bedlington will learn from his mistake.

“He’s a good guy, and he used really bad judgment during this arrest,” Vander Yacht said.

Ferndale has placed Bedlington on paid administrative leave. Mayor Gary Jensen said city officials will wait until they get all of the facts before they make any decision.

“It’s obviously an extremely serious position that he’s put us in,” Jensen said. “This changes things.”

Assistant city administrator Sam Taylor said the public works director is required to have a valid driver’s license but does not drive the maintenance vehicles used by crew members for city work. Bedlington was not using a city vehicle during his arrest.

City administrator Greg Young will act as public works director in the interim, Jensen said.

Bedlington did not respond to a message Wednesday seeking comment. He spent the night in jail and was released on personal recognizance Wednesday morning.