Harrietstown councilman charged with DWI

LAKE PLACID – A town of Harrietstown councilman was charged with driving drunk here Tuesday night.

James L. Murnane III, 45, of Saranac Lake, was pulled over just after 9 p.m. Tuesday when he drove his 2003 Cadillac through a four-way stop sign installed last year at the intersection of Mirror Lake Drive and Parkside Drive, according to Lake Placid police Sgt. Chuck Dobson.

Dobson said the officer noticed “an odor of alcoholic beverages coming from the vehicle” and asked Murnane to step out of the car. He was given several standard field sobriety tests, like walking a straight line and standing on one leg for a certain period of time, which Dobson said Murnane failed. At that point, Dobson said police had probable cause to place Murnane under arrest.

After he was transported to the police station, Murnane allegedly refused to take a breathalyzer test. He was subsequently charged with driving while intoxicated, failure to stop at a stop sign and refusal to take a breath test.

Murnane was processed, arraigned before village Justice William Hulshoff and released to appear in court again at a later date.

Murnane was elected to an unexpired term on the town council in 2009. He opted not to seek re-election in 2011. In December of last year, Murnane was appointed to the board to fill the seat left vacant by Bob Bevilacqua’s election as town supervisor. His seat will be on the ballot this fall.

Murnane owns and operates the Best Western Mountain Lake Inn in Saranac Lake. He’s one of several business owners on Lake Flower Avenue who’ve been pushing the state Department of Transportation in recent weeks to expedite plans to rebuild the road.

Reached at work Thursday morning, Murnane declined to answer any questions about the circumstances surrounding his arrest, calling it “a pending legal matter and not anything I can really comment on.” However, Murnane said he doesn’t think it “in any way affects my position on the board.”

Bevilacqua said Murnane stopped by his car repair shop Wednesday morning to tell him about what happened.

“He said he got stopped for DWI,” Bevilacqua said. “It’s an unfortunate thing that happened. I really don’t want to say too much about it, and I’ll let Jim speak for himself.”

The supervisor said he doesn’t believe the arrest has any implications on Murnane’s service to the town.

“This is a personal matter,” Bevilacqua said. “He was not on any town business. I really don’t see a connection. I asked all the board members, and all the board members feel the same, that this is nothing that should affect his position on the board.”

The Enterprise first learned of Murnane’s arrest in a media report that Lake Placid police faxed to the newspaper Thursday morning, as they do with all arrests.

Outside of the criminal case, Dobson said Murnane will have to go through a separate hearing before a state Department of Motor Vehicles administrative judge because he refused the breathalyzer test. He could have his driver’s license suspended and face a fine.

Under New York’s “implied consent” law, a driver who is lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe he or she has been driving while intoxicated must consent to a chemical test to determine blood alcohol content.