Salem cop charged with drunk driving

SALEM – City Police Chief J.T. Panezott said he’ll release today what action the administration plans to take in response to the weekend arrest of Patrolman Gary Poage in Canfield for alleged drunken driving.

Poage, 47, of Salem, was charged with OVI and marked lanes after a traffic stop at 2:32 a.m. Sunday on South Broad Street, just south of Fairground Boulevard, blowing a .260 during a portable breath test. The legal limit in Ohio is .08.

According to records on the Mahoning County Court web site, he’s scheduled to be arraigned for the misdemeanor charges at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Canfield.

According to the Canfield Police Department report, he was placed under administrative license suspension and his driver’s license was seized, so he’s not permitted to drive. He has not worked since the incident because he was already scheduled to be off.

When initially contacted about the arrest Monday, Panezott said they were looking at their options. He met with Mayor John Berlin and city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst Monday afternoon and planned to speak with Poage this morning to discuss the situation. Poage has been a full-time patrolman with the department since June 1993.

According to the incident report narrative, a Canfield police officer on patrol as part of the Mahoning County OVI Task Force saw a red Pontiac traveling southwest on Fairground Boulevard allegedly travel left of center on two occasions while passing Hood Drive. The officer continued to follow and allegedly saw the vehicle begin to weave within the lane of travel and initiated the traffic stop.

In the report, the officer said he made contact with the driver and he said “I observed his eyes to be glassy and I smelled the moderate scent of an alcoholic beverage. I informed him of the reason for the stop and he did not acknowledge the violation.”

After he requested his operator’s license and proof of insurance and was provided with both, the driver was identified as Poage, who allegedly told the officer “he was on his way home from a ‘bad date.’”

After his information was checked and he was determined to be a valid operator, he was asked

how many alcoholic beverages he had consumed and he said he had not consumed any.

According to the report, at that time, the officer noticed “a plastic red cup with some brownish colored liquid between his feet. I inquired what was in the cup and he replied that he did not know. He continued by stating that he did not even know how it got there. I asked him to hand me the cup which he did and it appeared to have beer.”

Poage was asked to step out of his car and was escorted to the side of the cruiser, with the officer saying he noticed the strong scent of an alcoholic beverage on him. He told the officer he traveled to Hubbard to drop off his date and “then admitted that he had in fact consumed ‘two Margaritas.’”

He agreed to participate in field sobriety tests and was unable to complete the one leg stand successfully and did not touch heel to toe on three occasions during the walk & turn. After again being asked if he had provided an accurate statement regarding the number of alcoholic beverages he had consumed, he allegedly “reiterated that he had only consumed two drinks but now explained that his date had actually purchased ‘a pitcher of Margaritas’ while they were at a Mexican restaurant.”

He agreed to the portable breath test and the reading was .260, resulting in his arrest.

During a search of Poage’s impounded vehicle, officers found two empty 12-ounce Miller Hi-Life beer bottles, one from the glove box and one from the driver’s side floor board. The original red cup with the suspected beer was seized, along with another red cup on the passenger side floor board with a similar type liquid.

During booking at the Canfield Police Department at 3:35 a.m. Sunday, Poage submitted to a chemical test which resulted in a reading of .244g, resulting in the administrative license suspension. He was able to make arrangements for a ride and was released at 3:45 a.m.

Nearly 14 years ago, Poage had previously been charged with misdemeanor counts for alleged criminal damaging, aggravated menacing and discharging a firearm while intoxicated in early 1999 after an incident at his home in Perry Township, but was found innocent of the charges and acquitted.

He filed a lawsuit against the Perry Township Police Department and Perry Township in 2000, claiming the police acted maliciously in filing the criminal charges against him. He had previously worked for the department.

The lawsuit had been dismissed, but an appeals court reversed the decision and sent the case back to Common Pleas Court. A settlement was reached between Poage and the township in July 2003. Details of the settlement weren’t released.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at