A senior Ministry of Transport manager whose past roles include promoting road safety may lose his job after being caught drink-driving at more than double the legal limit.
Bruce Victor Johnson, the ministry's aviation and maritime group general manager, was convicted in Masterton District Court this week after being caught during a random police roadside check in Martinborough.
Entering a guilty plea, Johnson's lawyer John Porter asked Judge Chris Tuohy to consider in his sentencing the consequences his client was already facing - including losing his high-profile post.
"He has told his employer immediately. He has been suspended and his employment is in jeopardy."
Johnson was meeting his employer this week and it was "highly likely" his 30-year public service career would be cut short, Mr Porter said.
Johnson's career highlights include transport planning at the Rugby World Cup, managing the ministry's transport safety and security group and the Maritime Safety Authority's maritime security division, chairing the National Working Committee on Terrorism with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and nearly 20 years as a commissioned naval officer.
Johnson, 46, was tested by police at 1.20am on August 24 in Martinborough, where he lives, the police statement of facts said.
Speaking to The Dominion Post outside court, Johnson said his drink-driving occurred following a "tragic personal event" the previous day.
"It's not something I would normally ever, ever do and I deeply regret it."
A Ministry of Transport spokesman confirmed Johnson was "off work".
"The ministry does take its leadership role in road safety absolutely seriously and we will be discussing the matter with Mr Johnson."
A spokesman for Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said he did not comment on operational matters.
It is understood the ministry is still weighing up its options and will make a decision on Johnson's employment next week.
A spokesman for the State Services Commission, which oversees the public sector, said it could not comment on Johnson's situation but, in general, each government department was responsible for its own employment decisions.
Wellington employment lawyer Andrew Scott-Howman said that under the State Services code of conduct, if a public servant's misconduct was severe, repeated, or concealed, it would be treated more harshly than a moderate, one-off offence which was immediately owned up to.
Public sector employment investigations tended to put drink-driving at the lower end of the scale, relative to offences such as fraud, in terms of breaching the public's trust, he said.
There could also be reasons for compassion, such as personal circumstances.
In court on Thursday, Judge Tuohy questioned Johnson's "very high" blood alcohol count of 221 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, saying it was enough for him to consider an alcoholism assessment.
The legal limit is 80mg.
Mr Porter said events in his client's personal life prompted the "one-off" incident.
"This arose at a time of huge personal upheaval in his life . . . he is the victim of his own stupidity."
Johnson had a previous drink-driving conviction, but Judge Tuohy said he would disregard this because it occurred more than 30 years ago.
The judge convicted Johnson, fined him $900, and disqualified him from driving for six months.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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