Wheeling city manager pleads guilty in connection with DUI

WHEELING — Suspended City Manager Robert Herron pleaded guilty to non-aggravated DUI in Ohio County Magistrate Court on Monday.

Herron will serve 104 hours of community service and pay a $200 fine, according to the plea agreement accepted by Magistrate Patricia Murphy.

Per the agreement, Herron pleaded guilty to the offense of “driving under the influence of alcohol, non-aggravated, first offense” as a lesser included offense of the original aggravated DUI charge he received in March.

Robert McCoid, Herron’s attorney, said Herron plans to make a statement at today’s Wheeling City Council meeting. Mayor Glenn Elliott previously said City Council plans to make a decision regarding Herron’s position with the city later in May.

The Ohio County Sheriff’s Office arrested Herron the evening of March 9 after he was involved in a car accident at 16th and Market streets. Officers determined his blood alcohol content to be 0.305 percent, nearly four times the legal limit to drive a vehicle in West Virginia.

Herron was charged with aggravated driving under the influence on March 10, and the next day City Council indefinitely suspended him without pay, appointing Fire Chief Larry Helms as acting city manager.

Through Monday’s plea agreement, Herron was sentenced to 14 days in the custody of the regional jail authority. Herron already served one day, and the remaining 13 were converted into the 104 hours of community service.

According to the agreement, Herron consented to suspension of his driver’s license and participation in West Virginia’s driver safety and treatment program. He will also be issued an interlock restricted operator’s license for 10.5 months, which requires that a driver use a breathalyzer before operating a vehicle.

McCoid said Herron voluntarily surrendered his driver’s license, consented to the suspension and enrolled in the safety program.

In addition, McCoid noted that Herron attended a rehabilitation facility in Pennsylvania for an extended period of time, which caused a delay in the case.

In addition to the $200 fine, Murphy required Herron to pay $235.25 in court costs.

“Thank you your honor. Very fair,” Herron said afterward.

The penalty of 104 hours imposed on Herron is “dramatically higher than what is ordinarily imposed on someone in a similar predicament,” McCoid said late Monday afternoon.

McCoid said Herron is remorseful, mortified over the incident and sorry to the city, residents and his family for the shame the DUI incident brought on himself and his profession.

“(Herron) doesn’t suffer from a character flaw, he suffers from alcoholism,” McCoid said. “If you’re hardwired for alcoholism genetically, it’s sad that it took something like this to jolt him into awareness that he does. But once it happened, he immediately set about rectifying it.”

Herron spent a month in rehab and is engaged in an additional long-term program, McCoid said.

“People who suffer from the disease of alcoholism are not people who need to be punished into being good, but sick people who need a hand in getting well,” McCoid continued. “It’s stunning to me the lack of compassion that some people have for people who struggle with the disease of alcoholism, particularly those who report to be proponents of recovery.”

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