Friday, February 22, 2008

Coach can coach again after pleading No Contest to California DUI

California DUI attorney news

After coach Frank Lemos got into a California DUI drunken-driving crash while in Bakersfield with the Dos Palos High wrestling team, he was told he wouldn't be able to coach at the school for two full years.

But on Thursday night, the Dos Palos school board put Lemos back on the roster a year early.

"The suspension has been lifted," Dos Palos-Oro Loma Unified School District board President Paul Goodman told the audience at Thursday night's board meeting. "The decision was unanimous."

The announcement was met with applause and handshakes from four Dos Palos High School football players. The football players had previously presented a petition to the board requesting Lemos be reinstated as a coach.

"We understand coach made a huge mistake," said lineman and 11th-grader Joseph Maldonado. "He's working very hard to make things right."

Lemos had been arrested Jan. 20, 2007, in Bakersfield for California DUI after he rear-ended a taxicab about 1:30 a.m. on the Rosedale Highway, according to the California Highway Patrol. The wrestling coach had been driving a school-owned eight-passenger van by himself when he crashed about a mile away from the Clarion Hotel in Bakersfield. A chaperone and 15 Dos Palos High School wrestlers -- who were competing in a tournament at Centennial-Bakersfield High -- were in their rooms at the hotel.

The taxi driver, 44-year-old Alejandro Lopez of Bakersfield, suffered minor injuries and refused medical aid at the scene, according to a CHP report. Lemos was unharmed, arrested and booked at the Kern County Jail at 3:31 a.m. on suspicion of California DUI driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs causing bodily injury, and DUI 0.08% blood alcohol with bodily injury. The second charge was later dropped.

In April 2007, Lemos pleaded no contest to the California DUI drunken-diving charge in Kern County Superior Court. His punishment was a one-day jail sentence, a $1,729 fine, three days of community service to be served in Merced and three years probation.

Lemos -- also a full-time physical education teacher, assistant football coach and girls softball coach at the time -- was placed on paid administrative leave while the district conducted an investigation. That California DUI investigation did not find reason to keep Lemos from teaching at the high school, as he is a P.E. instructor at Dos Palos High this year -- his 18th at the school.

But -- until Thursday night -- he was not reinstated to coach, which Walker said is the reason he made the request to the board Thursday night. "He wanted to have the suspension reduced to one year."

Lemos made his request to the board in private, during the closed-session part of the meeting. Most personnel matters are dealt with in closed session, as they often involve employees' private information.

The board's action does allow Lemos to coach at the school, but it doesn't automatically put Lemos back on any sport's coaching staff.

"He'll have to go through the same process any other coach would," Walker said, meaning Lemos will need to apply for the coaching jobs and be hired with board approval.

Regardless, both parents and players at the meeting were happy to see Lemos reinstated.

"Mr. Lemos has shown how a negative can be turned into a positive," by taking responsibility for his actions, said parent Susan Foster, who also provided the board with a petition supporting Lemos signed by adults in the community.

Maldonado said some of his teammates have been "waiting since Pop Warner" to play for Lemos and head football coach Mike Sparks. "We're looking forward to a successful season."