Schenectady County Community College President Steady Moono and a top aide pleaded guilty Wednesday evening to reduced charges of DWAI to satisfy drunken driving charges stemming from separate Duanesburg arrests May 5.
In a brief appearance in Duanesburg Town Court, Moono, 54, of Schenectady, pleaded guilty to driving while his ability was impaired. Under the terms of a plea agreement, Moono will pay a $500 fine and his license will be suspended for 90 days.
Paula Ohlhous, 50, of Duanesburg, chief of staff for the college’s Board of Trustees, also pleaded guilty Wednesday to driving while her ability was impaired.
They were each pulled over at 12:49 a.m. in separate vehicles by state police on Route 7 in Duanesburg. They showed signs of intoxication, police said, and failed roadside sobriety tests. Moono registered a .08 percent blood alcohol level, the legal threshold for drunk driving, and Ohlhous clocked a .09 percent blood alcohol level. They were both charged with misdemeanor driving while intoxicated. On Wednesday, they accepted lesser charges.
Outside court Wednesday evening, Moono, inaugurated as the college’s seventh president Friday, declined to speak to the media. His attorney, George LaMarche III, said it was a mistake for Moono to drive that night.
“Mr. Moono accepted responsibly tonight for a mistake he made,” LaMarche said outside the town court. “He had a couple of glasses of wine, he drove his car and tonight he accepted responsibility for operating his vehicle while he was in an impaired condition.”
LaMarche wouldn’t provide any greater details about where Moono was that night beyond a “social event.” Ohlhous’ attorney, James Knox of Troy-based E. Steward Jones Hacker Murphy, didn’t provide any details about where she was that night.
LaMarche said that Moono informed the college “immediately thereafter” the arrest — within a day.
“He has been completely transparent and up front from the beginning,” LaMarche said.
Earlier Wednesday, SCCC issued a statement in response to news of the arrest and confirmed Moono informed them of what happened. A spokesperson for the college said the Board of Trustees discussed the matter in executive session Monday.
“The Board of Trustees has been apprised of this situation by Dr. Moono,” the college’s statement reads. “We will withhold further comment until the facts are available. Dr. Moono has the support of the Board of Trustees as president of Schenectady County Community College.”
The college issued no statement in response to Ohlhous’ arrest. A spokesman instead referred comment to her attorney.
As part of the plea, Moono will participate in an impaired driving victims impact panel. The panels focus on presentations by victims of impaired driving incidents and are intended to increase awareness of the impact of driving while impaired. In Schenectady County, five are scheduled for 2016. The regular location for all five is SCCC.
The two guilty pleas came on the eve of the college’s commencement ceremony set for Thursday afternoon. Moono declined to answer a question about what message he would send to students about his arrest, but LarMarche said it was important to take responsibility for mistakes.
“It’s a lesson for everyone that we are not invincible; that when people socialize, you need to socialize responsibly,” LaMarche said. “He accepts full responsibility for making a mistake, when people make mistakes they should accept full responsibility for them.”
Knox echoed that message and said Ohlhous “is determined rather than contest the charges accept responsibility and put this matter behind her.” Ohlhous is listed on the SCCC website as the chief of staff for the Board of Trustees. Her LinkedIn page indicates she has served in that position since May 2014.
The college formally inaugurated Moono Friday after nearly a year on the job.
Moono started at SCCC last July after nearly 10 years working in Pottstown, Pa., at Montgomery County Community College, where he gained the title of vice president.
In his address at Friday’s ceremony, Moono focused on ensuring students graduate.
“My obligation, our collective obligation, is not just to enroll students but to graduate them as well,” Moono said then. “We must rededicate ourselves to help students get past the hurdles standing between them and an associate’s degree.”
He also listed his core set of principles: access and success for students; innovation of academic programs; community partnerships; and renewal of campus facilities.
He has helped finish a new strategic plan and enrollment plan, established new community partnerships and launched a mentor program that will pair students and faculty and staff in the fall.