An Orting City Council candidate who was charged with being drunk while in control of his vehicle earlier this year is now facing separate charges of driving with a suspended license and bringing a gun onto school property.
Douglas Bishop, a former Orting City Council member, is looking to return to the council by winning election to its Position 3 seat.
His opponent is Michelle Gehring, a contract support specialist for the City of Puyallup who was appointed to the council position last year.
Bishop, 53, was arrested in April after police officers said they found him drunk and apparently asleep in his truck on the side of the road. When officers looked into the vehicle, which was running with the keys in the ignition at the time, they found an open bottle of Jack Daniels on the passenger’s seat, according to a police report.
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A breath test later measured Bishop’s blood-alcohol content at 0.174, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.
In June, prosecutors agreed to reduce the charge of being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence down to second-degree negligent driving if Bishop met certain conditions over the next two years. Among the requirements is that he have no new criminal violations. Another is that he not drive with a suspended or invalid license.
In September, police cited Bishop for just that.
At the time, they were responding to a report that Bishop carried a concealed handgun onto the campus of Orting High School. According to a police report, Bishop told officers he forgot to remove the gun from his hip before coming to the school, which doesn’t allow firearms in accordance with state law.
When an officer did a routine check of Bishop’s driver’s license, it came back as suspended, according to charging documents.
The city’s police chief then saw Bishop drive away from the high school, causing an officer to cite Bishop for driving with a suspended license.
Last month, Bishop pleaded not guilty to a charge of driving with a suspended license in the second degree. He also pleaded not guilty to a charge of possessing a weapon on school grounds.
His attorney has asked for a jury trial on both charges.
Both criminal offenses are gross misdemeanors, which typically carry a maximum penalty of up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
If Bishop is found guilty of the new charges, it would violate the agreement he made with the court in the April case, causing him to be found guilty of physical control of a vehicle while under the influence. If the new charges are dismissed, Bishop can continue with the agreement and potentially end up with the lower charge of negligent driving on his record instead.
Bishop has court appearances scheduled for all three matters on Oct. 17 in Orting Municipal Court.
Bishop didn’t respond to a reporter’s phone messages or emails last week. His attorney also didn’t return a reporter’s phone call.
The state Department of Licensing said Bishop’s license was not suspended as of Thursday. The agency said it couldn’t share why his license might have been suspended previously.
Gehring, Bishop’s opponent in the council race, said the recent charges against Bishop are something voters should be worried about.
“It is a concern when you have pending criminal charges against you,” said Gehring, 40. “What does that say about your character? And it is kind of a slap in the face to those of us who have spent their whole lives following the law.”
A search of Washington court records turned up no record of Gehring having been involved in any criminal cases in the state. A search of her name turned up no traffic violations in Washington, either.
Bishop, who served on the Orting City Council between 2004 and 2008, has previously run into a different kind of trouble. During his term as a councilman, he was the subject of two negative state audits related to his employment at other public agencies.
In 2007, state auditors found Bishop deceived his former employer, Pierce Transit, by collecting disability benefits while he also received full-time pay as acting chief of the local fire district.
Auditors found Bishop “willfully misrepresented” his employment status to Pierce Transit to receive about $11,560 in benefits he wasn’t entitled to between March and November of 2004. Bishop resigned from the transit agency in 2006.
A year earlier, a special audit found Bishop overpaid himself by about $2,600 when he ran Orting Fire District No. 18 as interim chief. In some cases, Bishop incorrectly received overtime pay when he didn’t work 40 hours a week, the 2006 report from the state Auditor’s Office found.
At the time, Bishop told The News Tribune that he was being used as a “scapegoat” for the district’s past problems. Bishop was terminated from the fire district in 2005.
In this year’s Pierce County Official Local Voters’ Pamphlet, Bishop said he’s running for office because he feels Orting City Council members have lost touch with the people they represent.
“Folks keep asking me to get back on city council and help drive change,” Bishop wrote. “With your support I inspire to put the citizens back in our city government.”