FULLERTON (CBSLA.com) — The former city manager of Fullerton — Joe Felz — is being charged with DUI and hit-and-run.
Felz was involved in an early-morning crash in Fullerton on election night November 2016.
At that time, officials declined to press charges.
Felz crashed his white mini van into a fence and tree outside a home around 1:30 a.m. and left the scene.
Police stopped him nearby and one reportedly told Dan Hughes, the Fullerton Police Chief, that he “smelled of alcohol.”
Officers conducted a field sobriety test and determined Felz was not breaking the law and was let go. A report about the incident did not mention a field breathalyzer test.
Following the crash, KCAL9’s Stacey Butler spoke to homeowner Manny Bass about his tree.
He said Felz at that point hadn’t contacted him with an apology.
“I would think a city official would have been far more responsible,” Bass said.
Butler also spoke to homeowner Barbara Pollinger the night of the crash. She saw Felz flee the scene and called 911.
Tonight, Pollinger said she was surprised it took officials this long to file charges.
“I think if it had been anybody else, we would have seen charged filed on for sure,” she said.
“I thought maybe charges wouldn’t be filed because he resigned and that was sort of his backdoor out,” she said, “But it really is reaffirming that position really doesn’t get you out of responsibility.”
A local blogger, Joshua Ferguson, said at the incident in November that he believed Felz was getting preferential treatment.
“Now, almost four months later we are being told, oh, there is enough evidence for a DUI and hit-and-run misdemeanor charge,” Ferguson says “So how do you have a charge now? Remember Felz wasn’t cited, he wasn’t charged, nothing happened until now. Not to do anything about it? They were hoping it would be swept away.”
Butler knocked on Felz’s door — he lives a few blocks from the crash site. But he didn’t come to the door.
The city’s mayor told Butler by phone that there is an investigation looking into the possibility that Felz might have received preferential treatment from police.
“Hopefully he’s learned something from it,” said Pollinger, “I hope a lot of people learned from it, too.”
Felz is due in court next month.