By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — The Davenport town supervisor, who was taking a nap in his tractor Sunday night, was arrested on a felony drunken driving charge, state police at Oneonta said.
Dennis J. Valente, 58, of Davenport Center, was charged at 7:05 p.m. with operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of .08 of 1 percent, a felony count because of prior history, troopers said. He was arraigned in Davenport Town Court and released, pending re-appearance in court at 2 p.m. June 25.
Valente represents Davenport, which has about 2,900 residents, on the Delaware County Board of Supervisors. He owns the Davenport Garden Center at 11600 State Highway 23, where troopers made the arrest.
Troopers said they were investigating a complaint made at 6:17 p.m. Sunday about gravel falling off a bucket truck and were looking for the vehicle’s owner, Valente, who was found asleep at the wheel of a tractor.
Valente failed a standard field sobriety test, troopers said. Details about prior cases related to the felony count and other possible charges weren’t immediately available because the investigation continues, troopers said Tuesday.
Valente said he works daily at his garden during this season and sometimes will take a cat nap in his tractor. On Sunday, he was napping after working 14 hours, including some time driving the tractor.
When state police arrived, he was napping in cab of the tractor, which was on his property parked near one of the center’s greenhouses, a location where he would be available if needed. The engine wasn’t running, he said.
Valente, who said he will be hiring an attorney, refused to speak about the field sobriety test and other details because the incident is a legal matter pending in court.
“It’s got to play out in the courts,” Valente said. However, Valente said he did refuse to take an alcohol breath test.
``There was no reason to ask me to submit to that,’’ Valente said. “We’re at an age when we’re losing so many civil liberties.”
As a result of his refusal, his driver’s license was taken away, a penalty Valente said was greater than if he had taken the breath test and failed.
“I’m walking a little bit more,” he said.
On Tuesday, Davenport Town Judge Ron Menhennett said he couldn’t comment on the case.
According to Valente, who sign’s Menhennett’s paychecks, the judge said Sunday that he would recuse himself from the case.
Valente said the county district attorney will need to decide whether to prosecute the case.