Son's DUI draws attention to state senate's vehicles

April 19, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Garritt Cullerton, 26, was cited early Sunday with driving under the influence after being pulled over while behind the wheel of the senator's state vehicle that is suppose to be used for legislative business.

Police stopped the 2009 Ford Escape after midnight Sunday in the 800-block of North Dearborn in the Near North Side's tony Gold Coast neighborhood. Garritt was given a breathalyzer test that estimated his blood alcohol level at 0.188, which is over twice the legal limit for drivers.

Garritt's father--for whom the Escape was purchased last year by the Illinois State Senate--has been unavailable for comment. But spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon issued a statement, "The senate president is disappointed that this incident occurred..." and the vehicle "was used by his son without his authorization".

Phelon told ABC 7 the Escape is one of six vehicles purchased by the state for conducting legislative business. The elder Cullerton parks his SUV in Chicago and uses it for trips from his North Side home to his Chicago office at the Thompson Center. Cullerton--according to Phelon-- usually flies to Springfield on a state-owned airplane.

Cullerton, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and Republican House Leader Tom Cross also have personal use of vehicles purchased by their respective chambers.

Republican State Senator Matt Murphy says the situation is symbolic of why the general assembly is not trusted by taxpayers.

"They hear these things and say 'And you really want me to risk my job for a tax increase when you're spending it on that?' And it really fuels the lack of credibility that's already there," said Sen. Matt Murphy, (R) Palatine.

Mayor Richard Daley-- who announced more city government cuts Monday -- would not comment specifically on the Cullerton matter. But he did say that state and federal officials are not doing enough to reduce the sizes of their governments.

"We're doing everything here and the state and federal governments are not doing that. And like anything else, it does get you upset. Why are they immune to the economy?" said Mayor Daley.

Cullerton's spokeswoman says the Ford Escape was impounded by the Chicago Police Department Sunday and that President Cullerton himself paid the fee to get the vehicle released from the auto pound. He will not press charges against Garritt, who lives at home with his parents, for the unauthorized use of the SUV.

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