A House candidate in Milton who was convicted of drunken driving last year has withdrawn a request to get off probation early.
Todd Buik, 64, argued that remaining on probation would “greatly interfere” with a “positive life opportunity,” court records show, though he didn’t specify what the opportunity was. Buik is running as a Democrat in the Chittenden 10 district against Republicans Chris Mattos and John Palasik.
Buik asked for the early release in a letter to the Vermont Superior Court – Criminal Division last month – several weeks before the Aug. 14 primary – but didn’t want to talk about his request or the opportunity that prompted it when contacted last Friday.
“I don’t know where this is coming from,” he said. “It’s personal. It has nothing to do with the outcome, other than its very one-sided.” He later added, “I took responsibility for my actions and have completed them.”
Buik was scheduled to come before a judge Tuesday and explain why he should be let off early, but the court clerk’s office confirmed that hearing was cancelled. Reached at his home Tuesday morning, Buik had no comment on the cancellation.
Milton police arrested Buik on DUI-refusal in August 2017; he later pleaded guilty to DUI No. 2 – a misdemeanor – and received a suspended sentence of two years’ probation.
The state’s attorney’s office and the department of corrections objected to Buik’s request because his probation sentence wasn’t halfway through, records show.
According to Milton police, Buik’s DMV record shows four other DUI convictions: One in 1974, two in 1985 and one in 2009. Buik contested that total but wouldn’t share his own count.
His latest arrest occurred in the late afternoon on Aug. 11, 2017. Police watched Buik back of his driveway on Railroad Street and make an “extremely sharp” turn onto Route 7 toward Rene’s Deli, court records show. As he pulled into the parking lot, the driver-side door of his 1996 Volvo opened and closed rapidly; officers later saw a bungee cord wrapped around the front and back doors.
Buik displayed several indicators suggesting he was impaired: He was off balance, his eyes were watery and bloodshot and his breath smelled like alcohol, Sgt. Paul Locke’s affidavit says.
Body camera footage obtained by the Milton Independent shows Buik agree to perform a sobriety test but ask to do so in the grass near the deli, away from the parking lot. Asked if he’d prefer to take off his flip-flops, he declines.
“You’ve done these before, right?” Locke asks on the tape.
“Long time ago,” Buik responds.
Locke asks Buik to stand on one leg, the first in a series of roadside tests. Buik explains he suffered from vertigo a few years ago. He then lifts his foot and nearly falls over.
Buik admits he drank his last beer about 10 minutes before driving to the store and estimates he had two or three beers since waking up that morning. Locke later asks Buik to perform a breath test. When Buik hesitates, the sergeant asks if he thought he was over the legal limit to drive.
“It’s possible,” Buik says. Locke offers the test several more times. Buik responds, “I know that I’m guilty if I deny it.”
At the Milton police station, Buik asked to speak with attorney Paul Jarvis, a well-known DUI lawyer based out of Burlington, but calls to Jarvis’ work and home phone numbers were unsuccessful. Police later gave Buik a ride home.
In several brief phone interviews over the last week, Buik repeatedly warned the Independent to use “good judgment” and be careful with what information it publishes because there’s some “false information out there” but wouldn’t elaborate.
“I would hate for you to get caught up in that,” he said. “This is, to me, some pretty dirty pool.”
He likened his situation to that of Chittenden County Sen. Debbie Ingram, a Democrat who was arrested for drunk driving last year. In a statement released the day after her arrest, Ingram accepted responsibility for her actions and said she is undergoing treatment for alcoholism.
Her name surfaced in headlines again earlier this month after several top GOP officials condemned social media attacks against the senator, including Gov. Phil Scott, who called the behavior “unacceptable.”
Buik has lived in Milton for 17 years. His 2018 campaign is his latest attempt to break into the Vermont legislature following unsuccessful campaigns in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
He told the Independent in July that if elected, his main priority in the state house would be achieving a balanced budget, and said issues of immediate concern are senior care, health care and jobs. In previous candidate Q&As with the newspaper, he has stressed the importance of transparency among elected officials, calling it a “hallmark of democracy.”
He wouldn’t say whether voters should know about his driving record, or whether he thought it would impact his chances come November.