MESA, Ariz. - "A lot of people get DUIs and it changes their lives, and they move on."
That's what Mesa City Councilman Ryan Winkle said shortly after receiving his sentence for his second DUI arrest back in May. His punishment will cost him personally, but he's hoping it won't affect his time in public office.
"I want to be on council," he said. "I love doing what I do. I love serving the people that I serve."
That may be true, but at what price for all the taxpayers of Mesa? It turns out Winkle's colleagues on the Mesa City Council have chosen a pricey alternative to see that Winkle gets on his path to redemption.
Back in June, the council voted unanimously to charge Winkle with violating the council's code of ethics after his May DUI arrest. The disciplinary action begins with a hearing which carries significant legal bearing for all involved -- including the City of Mesa.
Through a public records request, 12 News found that outside counsel Gust Rosenfeld had already billed the city more than $15,000 by the end of May; and over $21,000 at the end of June for a total of $36,000 and counting. By the time Winkle has his hearing before the full council, the bill could reach $75,000.
"It goes with the territory when you're a public figure, so I don't have a problem with it," Mesa resident Darryl Powell said.
"In times like these, we don't have that kind of money," Kimberly Yoder said.
Mesa residents 12 News spoke to were not happy to hear that the council was spending city funds this way. Most were hoping for either a change in the Mesa charter or a change in the way the city decides to spend it's money.
"Is this a good use of taxpayer money? I don't think so," Mike Stewart from Mesa said. "If this is like a continuing issue, they should just come up with some sort of rule if there is a misconduct issue. They should just resign or have some sort of punitive action."
"I want to see that the money goes to libraries or schools which needs it more than a councilman," Anita Mora said.
The City of Mesa declined making an on-camera comment regarding the current legal fees the city has paid so far in "the Winkle matter."
Spokesperson Randy Policar referred back to the statement the council made in June: "Since this is now a City of Mesa legal proceeding, council cannot make any further comments regarding this matter."