Portland School Board member arrested for OUI in Scarborough

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PORTLAND — School Board member Jenna Vendil, who was arrested for alleged drunken driving June 27 in Scarborough, on Tuesday indicated she intends to let the legal process take its course.

Vendil, 30, of 38 Vesper St., is the District 1 representative. She was arrested shortly after 11 p.m. on the Interstate 295 connector.

Detective Sgt. Rick Rouse of the Scarborough Police Department said Vendil was pulled over after police “observed erratic operation” of her vehicle.

“(Officer Andrew Flynn) stopped her and put her through a field sobriety test, which led him to arresting her and bringing her back to Scarborough Police Department for a breath test,” Rouse said.

Rouse said Vendil did not pass the breath test, and was taken to the Cumberland County Jail on a charge of operating under the influence.

Vendil was released from jail on June 28 at around 3 a.m., according to the bail office. Bail was set at $3,500, but was unsecured since she did not have a criminal history, meaning she only had to pay the $60 bail commissioner fee to be released.

Her court appearance is set for July 29 at 8:30 a.m. in Portland. If Vendil fails to appear for the court date, she could pay the full $3,500.

Vendil, who was elected to the School Board in 2009, is nearing the end of her second term and has taken out nomination papers for re-election in November. She has not returned the papers.

Vendil attended the board’s last meeting on June 30, but did not publicly acknowledge her arrest. She did not return a call for comment Monday.

She did, however, address the board at the July 7 meeting, which she said was “for the sake of transparency” and “to clear the air.”

“The matter is being reviewed by the district attorney,” Vendil said of her arrest, adding while the investigation was underway “it would be inappropriate” to make further comments about what happened on June 27.

Vendil said although she is an elected official, she is also a citizen, and will go through the legal process. She said she is going to focus on the term she is serving on the board, but also assured constituents she would make the same effort she has for the past five years.

“I want to make sure we’re in a strong place for the start of the school year,” Vendil said.

School Board Chairwoman Sarah Thompson on Monday said she was aware of the arrest and that Vendil is “working through it.” Thompson said she didn’t have anything else to say about the matter.

Superintendent of Schools Emmanuel Caulk, who will soon leave the School Department to become school chief in Lexington, Kentucky, on Monday said he was aware of Vendil’s arrest, but would not discuss the pending legal matter.

“Instead, I will comment on Board Member Vendil’s stewardship on the Board,” Caulk said in an email. “Board Member Vendil has provided outstanding leadership and service to the students and families of Portland during my tenure.  Board Member Vendil provided noteworthy service on both the curriculum and finance committees.”

Caulk also said “if the litmus test for serving on a board is advocacy for all children, Board Member Vendil not only meets, but exceeds this threshold.”

School Board member Laurie Davis said she had been made aware of the incident, but also could not discuss a pending legal matter.

“I can comment on board member Vendil’s dedicated leadership and service as a member of the Board of Public Education over the past five years that I have served on the board,” Davis said. “I have worked with board member Vendil on the curriculum, personnel and finance committees, where she has been a hard-working and thoughtful advocate for quality education for students in District 1 and all of Portland.”

School Board member Stephanie Hatzenbuehler, who was not at Tuesday night’s meeting, said Vendil had alerted each board member individually about the arrest after it happened. She said the impression she got was that Vendil “was taking responsibility for her actions.”

“Jenna was very up front and very professional about the entire thing,” Hatzenbuehler said. “She called each of us individually and let us know she was handling everything on her end and she was very clear it wasn’t going to affect her work at all.”

City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said Mayor Michael Brennan was not aware of the incident before Monday.

Vendil is not the first School Board member to be arrested while serving.

Former board member Jason Toothaker was arrested in 2006 on a charge of theft of services after he fled a taxi without paying the $4.65 fare. Portland police found Toothaker hiding under a building deck and said he was very intoxicated.

Toothaker eventually resigned from the board in 2007.

Also in 2007, former board member Ben Meikelejohn was charged with driving without a license, although that charge was later dropped because he was never notified of his suspension.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.