Del. Lawmaker Leaves Position Amid Controversy
OCEAN CITY - The final chapter in the ongoing saga of Delaware Representative John C. Atkins, who caused a stir over the last several months for his actions during and after a traffic stop in Ocean City last October, was likely written this week when the lawmaker officially resigned his position.
Atkins resigned on Tuesday just before the Delaware House Ethics Committee was preparing to debate a censure resolution which, if approved, would have resulted in sanctions and penalties against him including forfeiting his state representative identification card and license plates and requiring him to take alcohol management classes among other things. However, many believe the Ethics Committee was prepared to bypass the censure resolution and vote to expel Atkins from the House.
Atkins settled the issue when he resigned on Tuesday, ending a months-long controversy that sucked in the Delaware House, the Ocean City Police Department and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), among others.
The Ethics Committee three weeks ago issued a ruling Atkins violated the House's rules of conduct and brought the legislative body into 'disrepute' with his actions before, during and after the traffic stop in Ocean City on Oct. 29 during which he repeatedly made it known to resort officers he was a Delaware elected official in an apparent attempt to gain leniency.
Atkins was ultimately allowed to call friends in Delaware to give he and his wife a ride home even after he registered a .14 on a roadside Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) after he was told he was not going to be arrested. The Ethics Committee report revealed Atkins drove his own car home after crossing over into Delaware. He was arrested later in the evening for offensive touching for a complaint filed by his wife.
The incident triggered a controversy on several fronts. The OCPD came under fire initially for appearing to use favoritism in its handling of Atkins during the traffic stop, but a subsequent internal investigation by the department concluded 10-year veteran and DWI specialist Doug Smith and the female trainee he was working with acted properly.MADD officials, however, questioned the department's handling of the case and requested a meeting with Chief Bernadette DiPino, Smith and others. After that meeting, MADD officials concluded the traffic stop was handled properly by resort police, but after the release of the Ethics Committee report, MADD issued a scathing rebuke of the OCPD's handling of the case.