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Former Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz was charged Friday with driving under the influence and hit and run stemming from an election night accident, according to a news release from the Orange County District Attorney’s office.
His arraignment is scheduled for April 3. If convicted, he faces up to one year in county jail.
Fullerton Mayor Bruce Whitaker, in an email, said “having been provided no additional information, beyond a notice of charges being filed, I can offer no further comment. However, regarding numerous public inquires about this matter, I am relieved that the District Attorney’s office has concluded their investigation.”
In the early morning of Nov. 9, after attending election night parties, Felz crashed his minivan within a half a mile of his house in a residential neighborhood north of downtown.
He drove over a curb and into a tree. A witness called police as Felz reportedly tried to drive away.
When police arrived, they said they smelled alcohol on Felz but did not give him a breathalyzer test and drove him home, according to a memo from former Police Chief Dan Hughes.
A police sergeant conducted a field sobriety test and apparently determined Felz was not drunk, according to Hughes’ memo, which was sent to members of the city council.
(Click here to read Chief Dan Hughes’ memo)
However, not everyone on the council got the memo.
Whitaker, who has been outspoken about the incident, previously said he didn’t get Hughes’ memo until a TV reporter emailed it to him. And it wasn’t until nearly a week after the crash when former Councilwoman Jan Flory forwarded him an email containing the memo sent by Hughes to the rest of the council, that Whitaker found out why Hughes didn’t send it to him.
“Joe (Felz) has not had the opportunity to discuss with (then) Councilmember Whitaker so he asked that I delay sending it to him until he has an opportunity to do so,” read the email from Hughes, who has left the city to take a job at Disneyland.
But Whitaker previously said Felz called him the day after the crash and said he lost control of the car because he was fidgeting with loose wires underneath the steering column.
Leading up to the Nov. 9 crash, Felz attended different election parties in downtown Fullerton.
Whitaker earlier told Voice of OC that Felz showed up to his election night party at the JP23 BBQ & Smokehouse sports bar. Felz came in between 1 a.m. and 1:30 a.m., bought Whitaker a congratulatory beer and got one for himself.
Councilman Jesus Silva also saw Felz in the area, walking past the Bourbon Street bar around 11 p.m., Silva previously said.
The city attorney’s office has denied requests by Voice of OC for both the police report on the crash and body camera footage.
Felz initially was put on leave while officials looked into his crash. In a letter to the council, he later announced that he was retiring from the city on Dec. 31.
“After many years working in public service, I have decided that my family now needs to be my first priority, and I will take some time away from working to spend time with my children as they enter their high school years,” read the letter.
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC intern. He can be reached at email@example.com.