Washington City Councilman Matthew Staniszewski was arrested for driving under the influence Monday afternoon, the fourth time he has been accused of that offense.
Staniszewski, 42, of 23 Buttonwood Ave., Washington, was unconscious in his vehicle on East Wheeling Street, near its intersection with Shaffer Avenue, about 1:10 p.m., according to a city police report.
His blue Honda was on the right side of the road, resting in a crooked position and blocking traffic, police said.
When police approached the passenger side of the vehicle, the officer could see an empty airplane-sized bottle of Mojo Shot on the floor.
Police asked Staniszewski for his driver’s license, but he instead handed over his American Express card, police said. The officer again asked him for his driver’s license.
“He appeared confused, then showed me his gold ‘Councilman, City of Washington’ badge, and handed me his whole wallet, where I was able to locate his driver’s license immediately,” the police report states.
Police asked Staniszewski if he was OK, but they said he only stared at the officer. Police reported his eyes were glassy and bloodshot.
Staniszewski allegedly ignored several commands to get out of the vehicle, but eventually complied. He required assistance walking and was placed under arrest for driving under the influence, police said.
Police did not perform a field-sobriety test out of concern that Staniszewski would fall and hurt himself.
In Staniszewski’s vehicle, police said they found four empty airplane-sized bottles of Tito’s vodka in a Burger King bag, as well as a full bottle.
Police transported Staniszewski to Washington Hospital and asked him if he would consent to a blood test.
“Nope,” Staniszewski allegedly replied.
Police took Staniszewski back to the station and read him his rights in regard to a blood test. He again refused to consent to a test, and also refused to sign the form stating he refused the blood test.
Officers attempted to escort Staniszewski out of the building.
“He sat down on one of our desks and repeatedly demanded to speak to (Chief of Police Robert Wilson), who had already previously informed him that he would not speak to him while he was in this state,” the report states.
After Staniszewski continued to ignore commands, Wilson intervened, according to the report, but Staniszewski would not speak to him.
Staniszewski’s interactions with police at the station were audio and video recorded.
Police released Staniszewski into the custody of his father. Charges will be issued via summons.
When reached for comment Monday, Washington Mayor Scott Putnam declined to say whether he believes Staniszewski should resign.
“That’s obviously up to Matt. I hope that he gets the help that he needs,” Putnam said. “At this point, he is innocent until proven guilty, so we’re not going to do anything until such time that this is resolved.”
Staniszewski, who ran unsuccessfully for Washington County prothonotary in 2011, referred comment to his attorney, Sean Logue, a Pittsburgh-based criminal defense attorney.
“Matt is a longtime public servant, and we look forward to working within the court system to address his problems and come to a just outcome,” Logue said.
Addressing calls for Staniszewski to resign, Logue said that ultimately will be a decision made by Staniszewski and his family.
“Matt has been a great city councilman, a strong fiscal conservative, and that decision will be something that he’ll look at,” Logue said.
Monday’s incident was not Staniszewski’s first run-in with the law.
His first arrest for DUI was in 2004, and he was admitted subsequently to the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, which carried a period of probation. He made his first run for city council as a Republican in 2005 and took office the following January.
During his first term on council, Staniszewski was charged twice with DUI. After being stopped for an alleged traffic violation in the city in December 2006, marijuana was found in his system. News reports at the time placed his blood-alcohol content at 0.07 percent, below the 0.08 percent level at which the state presumes intoxication for drivers.
His attorney filed a motion asserting that marijuana residue in his system was breaking down and that he was “not under the influence.” That case was pending in October 2007 when Staniszewski was slightly injured in a one-vehicle accident in North Strabane Township with a BAC of 0.29 percent.
In a January 2008 court appearance, Staniszewski’s then-attorney, David DiCarlo, said his client wanted to resolve the charges and opted to enter guilty pleas to the DUI charges and careless driving. Washington County Court Judge John DiSalle fined him a total of $3,025, and ordered him to have a drug and alcohol assessment performed and attend classes for repeat offenders.
The judge also sentenced Staniszewski to serve no less than six months and no more than 18 months in the county jail. As part of his sentence, DiSalle granted Staniszewski’s request for work release and for release from jail to attend council meetings and daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Staniszewski is midway through a four-year term on city council. He made a comeback in the 2017 election, returning to city council after a four-year hiatus.
In February 2018, North Strabane Township police cited Staniszewski for summary “public drunkenness and similar misconduct,” accusing him of becoming aggressive with employees at a local pizza restaurant while appearing to be intoxicated.
The following month Staniszewski entered a guilty plea with District Judge Jay Weller, whose office assessed him $310, which he paid, according to the state’s online court docket.