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Driven to Drink

February 7, 2009 permalink

The stress of baby stealing drove Connecticut DCF Commissioner Susan Hamilton to drink. After her arrest for drunk driving she is enrolling in rehab. Calls for her ouster have fallen on deaf ears.



DCF Commissioner Applies For DUI Education Program

By CHRISTINE DEMPSEY, The Hartford Courant, 4:00 PM EST, February 6, 2009, MERIDEN

The head of the state's child protection agency, who was charged with drunken driving last month, has applied for a program that could get her charges erased.

Susan Hamilton calmly raised her right hand in Superior Court today and, under oath, told Judge Arthur C. Hadden she has not previously used the alcohol-education program. The program is for first-time offenders.

The court will determine whether she is eligible, Hadden told her before scheduling her next court date for March 20. The proceeding took only a few minutes.

Hamilton, who was accompanied by her husband, Paul Hamilton, declined to comment outside the courtroom.

But her lawyer, Michael Tansley, said his client "apologized to the governor, apologized to the public and apologized to her department" — the state Department of Children and Families.

In a written statement released the day after her Jan. 22 arrest, Hamilton said she feels "great remorse and embarrassment."

"I have never been arrested before, and I pledge to the Governor, the staff of the Department, and to the citizens of this state that I will take all necessary and appropriate steps to make sure this never happens again," she wrote.

At 6:48 p.m. on Jan. 22, a state trooper stopped a white GMC Acadia — Hamilton's personal vehicle — on northbound I-91 in North Haven after seeing that it was being driven erratically, according to a brief police report.

Hamilton failed a field sobriety test and was transported to the Troop I barracks in Bethany, where she was processed on charges of operating under the influence of alcohol and failure to drive in the proper lane.

Hamilton had attended an "Exit Plan" meeting in Bridgeport that day, according to her schedule, obtained by The Courant through a Freedom of Information request. The meeting, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., was about goals the department must reach to improve the quality of services and end federal oversight of the agency. DCF was placed under federal supervision after a 1989 class-action lawsuit.

Hamilton, 42, of West Hartford, began her DCF career as front-line child abuse investigator. She got the commissioner's job after a six-month, nationwide search that yielded 41 candidates.

Source: Hartford Courant

Addendum She got lenient treatment from the law.




DCF Head Accepted Into Alcohol Education Program

By CHRISTINE DEMPSEY | The Hartford Courant, March 21, 2009

MERIDEN — - In a proceeding that lasted about a minute, the head of the state's child protection agency on Friday was accepted into a program that likely will lead to the erasure of her drunken-driving charges.

Superior Court Judge Arthur C. Hadden granted the application of Susan Hamilton, commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, for the alcohol education program. Hamilton opted to attend a 22-hour, weekend alcohol education program in New Hampshire run by the Amethyst Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization that offers substance abuse education. If she completes the program, her charges will be erased. Her next court date is March 19, 2010.

Her lawyer, Michael Tansley, would not disclose what Hamilton's blood alcohol content was on the night of her arrest. As in other cases when defendants apply for the program for first-time offenders, the court sealed her arrest file.

Hamilton's license was suspended for 120 days, from Feb. 21 to June 21, said William Seymour, spokesman for the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Under state law, the state motor vehicles department will suspend the driver's license of a first-time offender for 120 days if the person has a blood alcohol content of 0.16 — twice the legal limit — or greater, said Russell Palmer, an attorney who specializes in drunken driving cases. If the BAC is lower, a first-time offender's license is usually suspended for 90 days.

Hamilton did not ask for a hearing to restore her license, Seymour said. But she does have a permit allowing her to drive for work-related business, said Ernie Bertothy, another agency spokesman.

At about 6:45 p.m. on Jan. 22, a state trooper saw Hamilton driving her white GMC Acadia erratically on I-91 in North Haven, according to the state police. She failed a field sobriety test and was taken to the Troop I barracks in Bethany, where she was processed on charges of operating under the influence of alcohol and failure to drive in the proper lane.

Hamilton, 42, of West Hartford, began her DCF career as a child-abuse investigator. She was confirmed as commissioner by state lawmakers on June 28, 2007. Her husband, Paul Hamilton, was with her in court Friday.

In a statement on her behalf, Tansley said his client continues to express remorse about the incident last month.

"She appreciates the opportunity to participate in the alcohol education program and looks forward to a successful completion."

Source: Hartford Courant