MARQUETTE - A sergeant with the Marquette County Sheriff's Department is back to work after being disciplined by the department following a drunk driving arrest last month.
Sgt. Jeffrey Savola, arrested June 22 and charged with operating while intoxicated, was suspended without pay for two 12-hour shifts.
"He had two days off without pay and then he was subjected to a mandatory attendance and screening through the county employee assistance program and he will be required to successfully complete any and all treatment recommendations," Marquette County Sheriff Michael Lovelace said.
Savola, 28, works in the corrections division and helps to oversee operations in the county jail, according to Lovelace.
On the night of June 22, Savola - a female passenger was with him, as well - was driving north on Lincoln Avenue after leaving a wedding reception at the Ramada Inn, according to a report from the Marquette City Police Department. When Savola attempted to make a lefthand turn onto Fair Avenue, his vehicle was traveling too fast and left the roadway, coming to rest in the grass at the northwest corner of the intersection. According to the report, the car sustained minimal damage to the front right fender area, including a flat tire, and both air bags deployed.
When questioned, Savola told the responding officer that he had consumed about four beers during the previous four hours. Savola reportedly told the officer that alcohol may have influenced his inability to maneuver the turn, and a preliminary breath test showed he had a blood alcohol content of .171 percent, more than twice the legal limit.
"Following the PBT (Savola) commented that he 'thought I would be over what I should be (.08%),'" the report states.
Savola was arrested and lodged overnight at the Marquette County Jail. He was arraigned June 27 on one count of operating while intoxicated.
Lovelace said Savola reported back to work July 1, after serving his suspension. He said the department made a point to discipline Savola quickly.
"In order for discipline to be effective ... the sentence should be swift," he said. "They need to have the consequences right away, and then they need to get back to work.
"We like to be able to get the discipline done with and then let's move on."
In a disciplinary letter sent to Savola, Lovelace wrote that the sergeant violated two departmental policies.
Operating guidelines state that employees should maintain conduct that reflects favorably on the department and should avoid consuming alcohol "to the extent that it discredits the Department."
"Your arrest for an alleged OWI and jail time at the County's own facility is conduct that discredits the department, in violation of above Sections 4:4 and 4:17," Lovelace wrote in the letter.
Lovelace said this marks the first time he has been forced to deal with leveling discipline related to an OWI. But the punishment, he said, is in line with departmental policy.
"This person was disciplined appropriately," Lovelace said. "Some people are going to feel it's too light. Some are going to feel that it's heavy-handed. You're never going to please everyone, but we're consistent with how we deal with discipline in the office."
Lovelace's letter concluded: "Further actions involving misconduct may result in additional discipline, up to and including termination of employment."
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.