A Vermont state senator was cited for driving under the influence of alcohol less than a mile from her Williston home on Thursday night, police say.
Deborah “Debbie” Ingram, 55, of Williston, a Democrat who completed her first term in the senate this year, has been battling alcoholism for years, she said through her attorney.
“I suffer from a disease for which I have been getting treatment through a 12-step program,” she wrote. “I had a temporary setback last night and will continue to seek treatment to ensure that something like this never happens again.”
Police say Ingram was arrested after driving off the road, hitting a “fixed object” and eventually driving into a ditch on South Road in Williston.
Ingram lives on South Road, according to her biography on the legislature website.
“She is really embarrassed but she’s also really honest,” said Ted Kenney, Ingram’s attorney and longtime friend.
He says Ingram, who serves as executive director of Vermont Interfaith Action, has been undergoing substance abuse treatment after many years of sobriety.
“Debbie’s a human being and she has a disease that is a weakness that unfortunately made it so she did something stupid and dangerous last night,” Kenney said. “She’s doing what she can to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. I’m sure a lot of people will be disappointed. any time that anyone drinks and drives, everyone should be worried.”
Ingram started representing the Chittenden district in the senate this year.
Some of the bills she sponsored included background checks for gun transfers and raising the minimum wage.
On Wednesday, she joined other Chittenden County senators in a forum about opiate abuse.
Three democratic senate leaders expressed shock when Local 22 & Local 44’s Staci DaSilva informed them of the news.
“Good thing nobody was injured,” said Sen. Dick Sears (D – Bennington District). “She should be accorded all the protections of the law and go through the process like any other citizen.”
“If she has a problem, I hope it’s addressed,” said Sen. Dick Mazza (D – Grand Isle District), chair of the Transportation Committee.
Senate Pro Tempore Tim Ashe says he does not believe Ingram’s alcoholism played a factor in her behavior in the senate this year.
“Debbie’s performance as a senator in her first year was very conscientious and high quality and she conducted herself in the senate the way everyone would expect a member of the senate to,” he said.
Williston Police say Ingram was arrested and issued a citation. She is scheduled to appear in court on November 2.