NORTH TOPSAIL BEACH — North Topsail Beach Alderman Tom Leonard has no plans to resign following a recent arrest on charges of a DWI and possession of two concealed handguns while or after consuming alcohol.
Leonard was pulled over on South Lumina Avenue in Wrightsville Beach in the early morning hours of Tuesday, November 12, according to arrest records. After receiving a breathalyzer test he was found with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .11% — the legal limit to drive a vehicle in North Carolina is .08%.
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He was also charged with possession of two concealed, fully loaded handguns while or after consuming alcohol. According to court records, Leonard’s license was also suspended for 30 days under state statute § 20-16.5(b1). He is scheduled to appear in New Hanover County court on Tuesday, January 14.
On Tuesday afternoon Leonard issued a statement to Port City Daily that although he regrets “any embarrassment this may have caused the town or [his] family,” he is pleading not guilty in the case and has retained counsel to contest the charges.
Although he did not directly respond to whether he planned to resign from his seat on the board, he said other town leaders have voiced their support for him to remain an alderman.
“I am considered innocent until proven otherwise,” Leonard said. “I have informed the other members of the town’s elected body, the town manager, and the town attorney of this matter. Each has assured me that this does not in any way affect my qualifications to continue to serve the town in my current capacity, and I have their support to continue to do so.”
Leonard didn’t respond to whether he had been conducting official town business on his trip to Wrightsville Beach prior to his arrest, or if any public funds had been used.
Because the charges were misdemeanor offenses and not felonies, state law does not require his removal from office even if he is convicted, according to the UNC School of Government.
Mayor Dan Tuman, Town Manager Bryan Chadwick, and other aldermen did not respond when asked when they became aware of the incident, what actions the town has taken in response, whether any town policy exists pertaining to criminal incidents for elected town leaders, or whether Leonard’s potential resignation has been discussed.
Leonard served in the United States Marine Corps for nearly 30 years, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was first elected to the Board of Aldermen in November 2011.
Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com or (970) 413-3815