Constable resigned following vodka-infused hangover fender-bender

    U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Mike Meares

    A newly elected Maricopa County constable who resigned just a few weeks into the job did so a month after backing his official car into another vehicle and telling the county’s chief presiding constable he was hungover at the time after drinking a copious amount of vodka the previous night.

    Kent Rini, a Democrat who was elected constable for the county’s Kyrene precinct in November, was in Tubac in mid-January for constable training. On the morning of Jan. 18, a group of students said they watched him back his vehicle into a mobile trailer owned by the Arizona Constables Association. The students said Rini seemed “off balance” after getting out of his car.

    Michael Branham, the presiding constable for Maricopa County, wrote in an incident report that Rini didn’t report the incident and walked away from the scene. Branham said he found very little damage on either vehicle.

    A deputy constable who was conducting a training session said Rini smelled of alcohol after getting out of his car. Branham wrote that, when he spoke to Rini, the Kyrene constable was unshaven and disheveled, and smelled of alcohol and vomit. Branham said Rini told him that he’d consumed a large amount of vodka in his hotel room the night before, and had been throwing up as a result of a hangover in the morning. He missed his first two hours of constable training that day because of a “bad hangover.”

    Rini initially said he wasn’t sure if he’d hit another vehicle, but later acknowledged backing into the trailer, Branham wrote. Though he didn’t check the vehicles afterward, Rini said he didn’t believe there was any damage. He said he had no intention of reporting the incident, Branham wrote.

    Maricopa County took away Rini’s official car that day, spokesman Fields Moseley told the Mirror. Moseley said Rini’s car was assigned to him on the condition that he complete an online defensive driving course. At the time of the incident, he hadn’t completed the course, so the county took away the car.

    Rini submitted a one-line letter of resignation on Feb. 14, about six weeks after he was sworn in as a constable.

    Branham wrote that Rini said he had a drinking problem that had gone unaddressed for years. Branham referred Rini to the county’s employee assistance program so he could inquire about treatment options.

    Rini did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol when Branham spoke to him, he wrote. Branham added that he didn’t think the incident warranted a report to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, and he said Rini would have to be transported to Tucson to test for alcohol.

    Branham told the Mirror that he couldn’t comment on Rini’s case because it is a personnel matter. As to whether Rini was intoxicated at the time of the parking lot collision, Branham said, “That was not our determination.”

    In a separate report on Feb. 8, Branham wrote that Rini’s conduct had been substandard and that he’d made serious errors in his training.

    Rini did not return a call or an email from the Mirror.

    A constable is on officer of the county justice courts, whose duties include carrying out evictions and serving orders of protection. They are elected to four-year terms.

    Eight people have applied for the vacancy. The deadline for applicants to apply for the vacancy left by Rini’s resignation is Friday. Whoever is appointed to replace Rini will have to run in a special election in 2020 to fill out the remaining two years of the term. The salary for the Kyrene constable position is $48,294.

    Jeremy Duda
    Associate Editor Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”

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