U.S. Capitol police this week concluded their investigation into conflicting police accounts of a recent car accident involving Rep. William D. Ford (D-Mich.) on the Capitol grounds and exonerated the congressman of any wrongdoing.
"The evidence shows no indication that the congressman was intoxicated or impaired," said Lt. Robert Howe of the Capitol police inspections and internal affairs section, who investigated the July 12 incident. "Likewise there was no indication that he tried to leave the scene of the accident," Howe said.
A car driven by Ford crashed into the rear of a parked car on Southwest Drive shortly after 11 o'clock that night, then continued west for about 30 yards before stopping at South Capitol Street and Independence Avenue SE, police said.
One officer on the scene told a reporter shortly after the incident that he saw Ford's car driving away from the area before Capitol police stopped him and that he detected the smell of liquor while standing several feet away from the congressman.
Howe said the officer, Kevin Caulfield, had been "cited" for "violation of the police manual" by discussing "police department business" without prior approval of superiors. Caulfield could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Over a two-week period, Howe said, he interviewed the six Capitol police officers who were at the scene of the accident and based his conclusions on those talks.
"There was not an officer on the scene, including Caulfield, who could say the congressman was in fact drunk" or show that he intentionally tried to leave the scene and not report the accident, Howe said. He said he did not speak with the congressman.
No sobriety tests were administered to Ford because the two officers handling the investigation and their sergeant did not detect any sign of alcohol, police said.
When told of Howe's findings in a telephone interview yesterday, Ford's press secretary, Nancy Barbour, said, "Absolutely, there is no wrongdoing and that's the final word on the accident."
The owner of the car damaged in the accident, Kenneth McLaughlin, a Capitol custodian, said that Ford's insurance company paid promptly for the damage--a dented left rear fender and blown tire--and "with no problem."