Health chief quits after DUI plea

Cooper's second case since last March

Cooper


Montezuma County Health Department Director Lori Cooper resigned Friday after pleading guilty to a DUI charge. An interim director is expected to be named this week.

The news was announced at a County Commissioners meeting Monday after Sherrie Blackmer, a former employee at the health department, raised the issue.

Blackmer said she was one of about a dozen employees who left the department between 2007 and 2009 after county officials failed to investigate complaints about Cooper.

"A lot of people are thankful that it's over now," Blackmer said.

Appearing before Montezuma County Judge JenniLynn Lawrence, Cooper pleaded guilty on March 20. Prosecutors said she was guilty on a drunken-driving charge in Payson, Ariz., on March 12, 2013.

Cooper could face a mandatory minimum jail term of 10 days, pending drug and alcohol evaluations. Her sentencing was scheduled for May 6 at 1:30 p.m.

Director of the county health department since 1998, Cooper, 58, of Dolores, was arrested on March 5, and charged by with DUI, DUI per se, weaving and an open container in a motor vehicle.

Court records also reveal that 911 dispatchers received a REDDI (Report Every Drunk Driver Immediately) call for a vehicle driving westbound on Highway 160 at a "slow rate of speed" and "weaving."

Police stopped Cooper near East Empire Street and North Dolores Road just after 10 p.m.

Police reported that Cooper swayed in a circular motion while talking to officers and refused to perform voluntary roadside tests.

Police also said a 200-milliliter bottle of vodka, three-quarters full, was in plain view on the passenger side floorboard.

A Breathalyzer test indicated that Cooper had a blood alcohol content of .248, according to records.

Undersheriff Lynda Carter said Cooper was released from jail on March 6 after posting a $1,000 bond.

Cooper lawyer Jill Carlson said letters of support from health department employees were submitted on Cooper's behalf but denied that employees were pressured into writing them.

"My client didn't even know about the letters until after they were written," Carlson said.