WARWICK, RI – Saturday’s Warwick Police arrest of School Committee member Karen Bachus for DUI and a subsequent assault charge has led to calls for her removal, which only she can deliver.
“I’ve received many messages and inquiries about the incident so I’ll answer the questions here,” Mayor Frank Picozzi commented on his Facebook page. “There is no provision in the City’s Charter or ordinances that provides a mechanism to remove an elected official from office, nor is there a method for recall. The person would have to resign. This is an ongoing legal matter and we’ll continue to monitor it.”
Warwick Police Col. Bradford Connor said a call came into the department around 9:50 p.m. Feb. 18 from a witness who saw a driver, later identified as Bachus, driving “erratically” near Warwick City Hall.
An officer in the vicinity spotted Bachus’ vehicle and followed it for a short time, observing, “additional traffic violations,” Connor noted.
The officer pulled Bachus over in the area of West Shore Road and Oaktree Avenue, where the officer conducted a DUI investigation, including a series of sobriety tests.
Based on the results of those tests and on her demeanor, the officer transported Bachus to Warwick Police Headquarters, 99 Veterans Memorial Drive, Warwick.
When officers attempted to test Bachus with a Breathalyzer machine, she attempted to walk away and was “ignoring the officers’ commands to remain seated,” Connor said.
The jailer attempted to escort her back to her seat when Bachus struck the officer in the arm with a “closed fist,” Connor said.
Connor said Bachus was charged with refusal to submit to a chemical test, DUI, and also simple assault. She also received a summons to appear at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal and Third District Court.
Bachus, an outspoken member of the School Committee, criticizing administrative spending and challenging Gov. Gina Raimondo’s approach to in-person learning, did not respond to requests for comment from the Warwick Post.
“With respect to the situation involving Ms. Bachus, we would offer the following statement: It has come to our attention that one of our colleagues was arrested over the weekend. The Warwick School Committee takes these matters seriously and is monitoring the situation closely but at this point we cannot comment any further,” School Committee Chairman David Testa said Tuesday via e-mail.
This is not the first time Bachus’s personal life has resulted in calls for her resignation. In 2020, a dispute between her and friend and fellow School Committee Member Judy Cobden resulted in a restraining order against Bachus. Warwick Police enforced the restraining order, and the two made public amends. Both Cobden and Bachus stressed their commitment to their posts on the School Committee and bettering student education. Nonetheless, both endured public calls for their resignations.
Residents responding to Picozzi’s Facebook post on Bachus’s arrest ranged from neutral to pro-resignation.
“I don’t condone drinking and driving or assaulting a police officer. However, this woman is entitled to her day in court like the rest of us,” wrote Kevin Oliver.
Mike Scallon wasn’t confident that Bachus will be able to focus on her School Committee duties following the arrest.
“While there is no provision to remove her from public office I would think a lot of pressure would be applied to her if other officials called for her immediate resignation. This isn’t some minor tenant/landlord dispute and I would find it almost impossible to believe her “let’s put the kids first” rhetoric from here on out. I know the school committee is in a tough spot here but at minimum this behavior should be condemned. I really appreciate your statement as opposed to staying silent. I hope she does the right thing and steps down. That would be the best thing for the kids,” Scallon wrote.
The next scheduled School Committee meeting is March 14.
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