Cunningham staffer issues apology for drunk tirade at cops | Katie Bolger
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Katie Bolger

Cunningham staffer issues apology for drunk tirade at cops

Union calling for resignation

Katie Bolger, the chief of staff for City Councilman Paul Cunningham, has issued a written statement about the intoxicated outburst — directed at Tucson police — last month that ended in her spending a night in jail. Despite the police union's call for her resignation, she has declined repeated requests to be interviewed on the record about the incident.

Tuesday, Bolger said in a written statement that she's "extremely regretful" and offered apologies to the police. She said she called TPD Chief Roberto Villaseñor two days after the incident to apologize for her "rude, inexcusable, unprofessional conduct."

The statement followed a call last week by Bill Bonanno, the president of the Tucson Police Officer's Association, for her to resign because of the incident.

Bolger "repeatedly threatened the officers on scene because of her current position" and "made an enormous spectacle," a statement on the TPOA Facebook page said.

The 18-page police report on the March 22 incident was widely distributed by a pseudonymous emailer the week afterward. Copies, with various areas highlighted, were sent to mayor and entire City Council, high-level city administrators and multiple news organizations. No replies were made to emailed requests for comment sent to the originating address by

In the days following, Bolger refused several requests to be interviewed, and her boss, Ward 2 Councilman Cunningham, limited his comments to saying the situation was being "handled internally" and that he wouldn't fire his chief of staff.

"I believe in second chances," Cunningham said Friday.

'Do you know who I am?'

Bolger, 44, was crossing Speedway just after 9 p.m. on Friday, March 22, when she was nearly hit by a TPD officer driving an unmarked bomb squad pickup, the officer reported.

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Officer Charles Pickard had to swerve to avoid striking Bolger as she crossed the dark road between 4th and 5th avenues, he said. "I came to a stop approximately 30 ft (sic) past the person, who I saw was a woman," he wrote in a police report:

... I rolled down my window and yelled back at the woman "what are you doing?" The woman replied," Fuck you motherfucker, you almost hit me!" I yelled to her, "Police, get on the sidewalk." The woman replied "fuck you!" then ran behind my truck and began walking quickly northbound on 5th Ave.

I turned north on 5th Ave to follow her and started to radio for backup. She saw me turn behind her and ran out into the middle of the road and towards the driver side of my vehicle. I dropped the radio, shifted into park and jumped out to face her. The woman had her fists balled and up as if she wanted to fight me. I repeated that I was the police and ordered her to get on the sidewalk and sit down. She got within about five feet of me and three both of her hands towards me with middle fingers of both hands extended and said "fuck you!" She also said something to the effect of "you should be ashamed that you almost hit me. That's on you!"

Bolger continued to walk north and yell expletives, ignoring the officer's commands to sit on the sidewalk, Pickard wrote.

As Bolger was lit up by a spotlight from a police helicopter, the officer used his public-address system to order her to sit. She complied at the corner of Helen Street and 5th Avenue, he said.

"The woman seemed to be slurring her speech, had watery bloodshot eyes, and I could smell a strong odor of intoxicants on her breath," the officer wrote. "The woman continued to curse and began to yell that she worked for Tucson City Councilman Paul Cunningham and told us we were in trouble."

Pickard and the other responding officers reported that Bolger told them to contact Cunningham and the police chief.

"You might want to call Villasenor just for the fuck of it," Bolger allegedly said.

"Do you know who I am? I am  Council Member Cunningham's chief of staff," one officer reported her saying.

In addition to the police reports by five officers, TPD released a short video clip of a portion of the incident.

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The officers told Bolger they were going to issue a ticket for jaywalking and offered her a ride home, as "she would not be able to leave because of her intoxication level," a police report said.

Bolger refused the ride, officers wrote. Instead, they called a fellow employee in Cunningham's office — Ted Prezelski, who doubles as the Sentinel's soccer reporter — to give her a ride home. Prezelski declined to comment on the incident.

"Undo my fucking handcuffs ... this is really not good for you that I am in handcuffs," Bolger reportedly said.

Bolger refused to sign the ticket, officers wrote.

"No, take me to jail. I want to make a point," she said, according to a police report.

Bolger was booked into the Pima County Jail that night, and released the next day.

Union calls for resignation, councilman backs No. 2

Although the identify or motive of the person who mass-emailed the police report isn't known, members of the Tucson police union have been vocal in calling for Bolger to quit or be fired.

"It is obvious that Katie has a problem and I sincerely hope that she gets the help that she so desperately needs," union president Bonanno wrote.

"Unfortunately though, based on Katie's actions and failure to own up to responsibility, I find it impossible for her to remain in the current position as chief of staff for Councilman Cunningham," he said. "I realize that Councilman Cunningham would like to deal with this internally and can sympathize with his reasoning for not wanting to fire Katie. However, if Katie has Councilman Cunningham's best interest at heart, she will recognize what she needs to do and resign her position."

For his part, Cunningham is sticking by his number two, who previously worked for Councilwoman Karin Uhlich and Cunningham's Ward 2 predecessor, Rodney Glassman.

"As a former probation officer and a recovering alcoholic, I believe in second chances," he said in a statement released Friday.

"I acknowledge that Katie used poor judgment and was unprofessional. We are taking steps to address this issue appropriately. Obviously, if these steps can’t be taken, we will have to make some changes," he said.

In a weekly newsletter to constituents, Cunningham wrote about the situation:

"I know how 'handling things internally' sounds, but I don’t wish to make how I handle personnel issues within my office a public matter. She’s still a city employee (as well as a friend) and deserves privacy."

"One thing I'd like to address is the implication by some in the media that this incident is reflective of my own sobriety. I'm proud to say that I am beginning my eleventh month of sobriety," he wrote.

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3 comments on this story

Apr 11, 2013, 11:35 am
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What gets me about Katie’s so called apology is that she only keeps referring to her actions as embarrassing.  She never, never says that they were inappropriate.  This says to me that that she’s only sorry to have been caught.  She likes to party on 4th avenue and drink and doesn’t sound like someone who wants to change the lifestyle for which she has become accustomed.

Apr 10, 2013, 11:19 am
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Apr 10, 2013, 2:46 am
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Well, finally she says something. I’m surprised she did. Tucson is the land of no consequences, and nowhere is that more true than in city government. Does anyone really think that the drunken outrages that come from the Ward 2 office are really going to be remembered by the voters come election time? Of course not, silly…not as long as Cunningham has that precious “D” next to his name on the ballot. It has been clearly established that the “D” forgives all sins around here.

“I know how ‘handling things internally’ sounds, but I don’t wish to make how I handle personnel issues within my office a public matter. She’s still a city employee (as well as a friend) and deserves privacy.”

This is absolutely the wrong attitude. The taxpayers are Cunningham’s boss. As such, they are entitled to know everything he does with their money, and everything he does while he is on the clock. Bolger is paid with tax dollars, also. There should be no secrets from those who are paying their salaries. But, once again, no consequences…

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Bolger on her booking into jail.

Bolger's statement

Open Letter to my fellow Tucsonans:

On Friday, March 22, I conducted myself in a manner that is deeply embarrassing. I am extremely regretful and offer my apologies to the men and women of the Tucson Police Department, who were doing their jobs serving the community.

I was walking home after a night out on Fourth Avenue. I crossed Speedway at Fifth Avenue and was stopped by a Tucson police officer. The officer informed me that another car had to perform an “evasive” maneuver to avoid hitting me.

Instead of acknowledging that I had dangerously crossed the road, I became angry with the officer. Three more patrol cars responded to the scene and I became verbally offensive.

Multiple times I was asked to sign the citation for jaywalking, but I stubbornly refused and instead spent the night in jail. On Sunday March 24, I called Tucson Police Chief Villasenor to offer my apologies for my rude, inexcusable, unprofessional conduct towards his officers.

I am a public official in that I serve as a staff member for an elected City Councilman. For this, I am held to a higher standard of public conduct—as I should be.

I write this letter not only as an apology to the officers who were witness and subject to my unbecoming conduct, but to the residents of the City of Tucson.

I was born and raised here in Tucson. I have never lived anywhere else. I am blessed in many ways. I have been given the opportunity to work for the City I love.

I have embarrassed myself, family, friends, and co-workers, and for that I am truly sorry.

I want to thank Councilman Cunningham for believing that I am worth a second chance serving in his office. My goal is to prove to him, and the Tucson community, it is a chance worth taking.

—Katie Bolger