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August 24, 2002

Cadillac officer suspended`

- Sergeant didn't give breath test to a fellow officer after an accident
By TOM CARR
Record-Eagle staff writer

     
      CADILLAC - A Cadillac police sergeant is suspended for a week without pay for failing to give a breath test to an off-duty officer who ran his car into a sign after returning from a bar.
      The off-duty officer earlier was ticketed for driving too fast for conditions. The ticket likely ends the investigation into the matter.
      Sgt. Todd Golnick was suspended effective Friday for violating department policy, Cadillac Public Safety Director Robert Denslow said. He had responded to an early morning accident involving off-duty officer Eric Eller, but Golnick did not give him a breath test.
      "I want us to pride ourselves on treating everybody the same," Denslow said. "He should've been treated the same as everyone else in this case."
      Eller hit a no-parking sign on Haynes Street with his pickup truck just after 2 a.m. Aug. 10, Denslow said. Eller has admitted to drinking at a colleague's going-away party at the Cadillac Party Lounge.
      Golnick's suspension will be for 36 work hours. It will not necessarily be on consecutive days, because the department has to cover the shifts and does not want to pay other officers overtime, Denslow said.
      Denslow does not anticipate any further discipline for either officer.
      Denslow said Golnick could have been dismissed if it were determined he was trying to cover up for Eller.
      "If I'd found out he lied, the punishment could've been more severe," he said. "I think he just used poor judgment. There was no (preliminary breath test) given and he never said he did give a PBT."
      Golnick had not been disciplined in his more than 10 years on the force, Denslow added.
      An internal investigation did not deal with Eller's actions, Denslow said, but rather with Golnick's handling of the accident and report.
      "Officer Eller certainly didn't get out of this unscathed," Denslow said. "He has received a ticket and a letter of reprimand."
      Denslow said that if it were determined that an off-duty officer had been driving with an illegally high blood-alcohol level, the officer could be terminated.
      Police interviewed people who saw Eller that night and none of them said he appeared to be drunk, Denslow said.
      However, Tammie Davis, a woman who heard Eller's accident outside her front door and then let him use her phone, told the Record-Eagle earlier this week that he smelled strongly of alcohol and he was speaking loudly when he was in her house.
      She said he called for a ride. She later called police.
      She said she did not know at the time that Eller was a police officer.
      A short time later, before Golnick arrived, off-duty Wexford County deputy Chris Piskor came and drove Eller away. Piskor had been at the same party, Denslow said.
      Piskor took him to a home nearby so he could call his wife and tell her what had happened, Denslow said. Later, another off-duty deputy who had been at the party, Brian Rood, drove him from the home back to the scene of the accident.
      That does not constitute leaving the scene of the accident, Denslow added.
      "It's not unusual for us to arrive at an accident and not find the driver, because they might have gone to call a wrecker or something," he said. "They usually come back."
      Efforts to reach Davis and Golnick for comment Friday were unsuccessful.
      Eller has declined comment in the past, referring all questions to the department.
      Tom Carr is the reporter for Wexford, Missaukee and Kalkaska counties. He can be reached at (231) 269-4500 or tomcarr@coslink.net
     
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