A senior official with the U.S. State Department was arrested this month on suspicion of drunken driving after crashing her vehicle while returning from a wedding.
Susan A. Phalen was arrested July 6 on suspicion of DUII and reckless driving near Central Oregon Community College. As of Tuesday, she had not been charged with a crime, according to the Oregon Judicial Information Network.
At 10:39 p.m., dispatch received a report of a single-vehicle rollover crash on Mt. Washington Drive. Bend Police officer Matthew Baldwin arrived to find a 2019 Land Rover Discovery on its side in the middle of the northbound lane and Phalen sitting on the curb with a COCC campus security officer standing near her, according to court documents.
Baldwin said he “immediately” noticed numerous signs of impairment in Phalen, such as watery and bloodshot eyes, slurred and slow speech.
She allegedly needed help standing, according to court records.
Phalen reportedly told the officer she had been returning to her Airbnb after a wedding in Tumalo. Unfamiliar with the area, she attempted to follow her navigation by making a left turn when she rolled her vehicle.
The nearest road was Regency Drive, about one-eighth of a mile up the road, Baldwin said.
Phalen reportedly admitted to drinking margaritas at the wedding, but refused to perform roadside sobriety tests or take a breath test for alcohol, according to court records.
“I have no comment,” Phalen told The Bulletin when reached for comment.
Phalen, 49, of Alexandria, Virginia, is listed as a senior adviser for external affairs for the State Department, according the department’s current directory. Her career in government stretches to the 1990s and has included stints as communication director for the House Homeland Security Committee and before that, the House Intelligence Committee. More recently, she was director of external affairs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to her LinkedIn page.
Phalen made headlines last year when a fellow press secretary left FEMA, citing in his resignation letter a “boys club” mentality that excluded Phalen.
Phalen resigned from FEMA in early 2018.
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