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Commissioner charged with OWI in weekend accident

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Fortwendel apologizes for actions

By Vince Luecke

NEW BOSTON - A Perry County commissioner was charged with drunk driving early Sunday after a one-vehicle accident on Indiana 545 north of New Boston.

Louis J. "Jody" Fortwendel, 57, of 16870 Avery Ridge Road, Tell City, was lodged in the Spencer County Jail on charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and with an open container of alcohol.

Fortwendel, the county's District 3 commissioner, was released later the same day and offered a public apology Tuesday, saying he accepted full responsibility for his actions.

According to an accident report by Spencer County Sheriff's Deputy Brandon Dickson, Fortwendel was driving south just before 1 a.m. when his Chevrolet van traveled off the right side of the road and struck a ditch.

Another motorist called the Tell City Police Department to report the accident and the call was relayed to Spencer County's dispatch center at Rockport. Spencer County EMS and St. Meinrad volunteer firemen were dispatched to the scene but later told to disregard the report.

According to Dickson, Fortwendel said the accident occurred when he swerved to miss a deer. As he exited the van, Fortwendel staggered and his speech was slurred, said Dickson, who said he also smelled alcohol.

"I asked the driver if he had been drinking. The driver told me no, he had not been drinking," Dickson wrote in his report.

Dickson said he later saw alcoholic-beverage containers on the back floorboard of the vehicle and reported finding two full containers of alcohol and one empty container.

Fortwendel's blood-alcohol concentration measured .22 percent at the scene, the case report stated, nearly three times the legal limit. He was handcuffed but the officer later removed the cuffs after Fortwendel complained of pain to his hands.

Fortwendel allegedly asked several times to be taken home instead of jail, telling Dickson and Reserve Deputy Mike Miles that he was a county commissioner and didn't want the incident to become public.

Dickson said he was taking Fortwendel to the Spencer County Jail for another chemical test to confirm readings of the portable breath test he administered at the scene.

Fortwendel apologized Tuesday, saying he made a mistake.

"Everyone should take responsibility for their actions. I take responsibility for mine," he said. "I want to extend a public apology to everyone who has supported me in the past. I especially want to apologize to my family for the embarrassment I have caused them."

Fortwendel said he hoped the experience would help him learn to be a better person, "make amends and move forward with the rest of my life."