PROVO -- Two-term Republican Utah County Commissioner David Gardner was arrested Monday night and cited for investigation of driving while intoxicated.
The commissioner was found by Utah County sheriff's deputies at an evening brush fire at 1800 W. 5000 South, a rural section just off I-15 in the flats west of Spanish Fork, said Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Verdi White II.Police say Gardner drove into an embankment and punctured his gas tank. He then noticed that a fire had started in the brush surrounding the car and attempted to stomp out the flames, incurring some injuries to his feet and lower legs.
After dousing the flames, he drove about a mile and flagged down a farmer for help. It was then that his car started on fire. He and the farmer put out the blaze, White said.
UHP troopers were called to the scene after deputies recognized Gardner as the commissioner. Most police agencies will ask another law organization to take over an investigation if an official from the governing body in the region is involved, he said.
Gardner failed field tests for sobriety, White said. He was then taken by police in a patrol vehicle to Mountain View Hospital in Payson for treatment and was released on citation.
"After some tests we did place him under arrest," White said. Police did not test Gardner's breath for alcohol content but did administer a blood test. Results are pending, he said.
"We don't book (into jail) everyone we arrest," the lieutenant said. "It often depends on their medical conditions. We often release on citation if they need medical care."
Gardner was in his office Tuesday but not in his seat at the regular County Commission meeting. He would not come out of his office Tuesday morning to respond to questions from the Deseret News.
Later Tuesday morning, however, Gardner told the newspaper a very different version of events than police gave. He said he had been en route to a meeting with the south county mayors to discuss fire contracts. He passed an abandoned house on the old Palmyra road where there was a fire.
He said his attempts to stomp it out melted his shoes and blistered his feet but did nothing to put out the fire. He then drove around the corner to get help and employees working at a nearby feed lot reported the fire and alerted him to the fact that his 1989 Lincoln was now on fire as well.
Gardner said he did take a Breathalyzer test later at the request of officers who responded to the fire and field sobriety tests at Mountain View Hospital.
He said he believes he failed the breath test only because he'd taken a sample from a drink offered him by a hitchhiker he picked up and booted out earlier.
"I've never been arrested for anything before," he said. "Never."
Commission meetings for next week have been canceled, but Gardner said cancellations had nothing to do with Monday's incident.
As one of the three commissioners of the state's second-largest county, Gardner serves as the region's point man for the Utah Association of Counties and as a member of the National Association of Counties' Human Services and Education Steering Committee.
He's one of only 30 such members from across the country to be invited to serve.
Before he was elected to the commission in 1994, Gardner worked in private practice in psychiatry and was also the treatment coordinator for adult psychiatry at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.
He's a licensed hypnotherapist, a family and marriage relations counselor and taught at Brigham Young University. He holds two master's degrees, in counseling and psychiatry.
Gardner founded the Center for Change in Orem, a private facility that provides services for families and individuals who are experiencing emotional and mental challenges.
He and his wife, MarLynn, live in Springville with their family of four daughters and two sons. They're licensed as a foster family, certified to take in high-risk and legal-risk children.