A Palmer city council member resolved one DUI with a plea deal. An Anchorage case is still open.

May 22—PALMER — A Palmer city council member has entered a plea agreement to dismiss driving under the influence charges filed in February but faces similar charges from a 2022 arrest in Anchorage.

Richard Best on Tuesday in Palmer District Court pleaded guilty to refusing a field sobriety test during a traffic stop in downtown Palmer in early February. He will serve five days of either residential treatment or house arrest under a judge's order. A DUI charge in the case will be dismissed under the proposed judgment.

The Palmer plea agreement does not resolve a 2022 case in which Anchorage police arrested Best for operating under the influence and reckless driving after an officer observed him traveling nearly 100 mph in Chugiak near the North Birchwood Loop Road exit, according to a complaint filed in that case. Best's attorney has filed a motion to dismiss the OUI charge.

Best did not respond to a request to be interviewed for this story. He remains an active member of the city council.

Best, 54, was arrested and charged on Feb. 3 with driving under the influence and refusing to submit to a chemical test after an early-morning traffic stop by Palmer police, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case. An officer pulled him over for "unsafe lane travel" and driving with a headlight out at an intersection in downtown Palmer, the complaint said. Best admitted to drinking and the officer observed slurred speech, swaying balance and other indications of possible intoxication, according to the document.

Best refused a Breathalyzer test at the time of his arrest, according to the complaint. He was released later that day without posting bail.

Best attended Tuesday's court hearing by phone. He was unable to attend in person due to travel, according to his attorney, Joshua Fannon. Best did not make a statement during the hearing.

The agreement calls for Best to serve five days in a residential treatment center or under electronic monitoring, pay a $1,500 fine and have his driver's license suspended for 90 days. He will also be required to keep an ignition interlock device on his vehicle for six months, serve two years of probation and participate in the state's Alcohol Safety Action Program, Magistrate Judge Jenna Strohmeyer said during the hearing. He also must pay a series of court fines.

Best must report to the Cordova Center Residential Reentry Program on July 19 to serve his sentence or request electronic monitoring prior to that date, Strohmeyer said.

Best completed the alcohol safety program before the hearing, according to his attorney.

"The refusal charge is a tough learning lesson for Mr. Best," Fannon said during the hearing. "I wouldn't expect to see him back here again."

The charges were the second such incident for Best since October 2022 when he was pulled over by Anchorage police after he was observed driving north on the Glenn Highway at 97 mph, according to a probable cause statement filed with charges. Best also turned off his headlights and made a wide, improper turn off the Birchwood exit before stopping, according to an opposition to Best's dismissal motion filed by a municipal prosecutor.

He was arrested for operating under the influence after failing a field sobriety test, the statement said. Officers in that case "observed a strong odor of alcohol," and Best admitted to drinking, it said.

Best told the officer he had consumed a shot of vodka about an hour prior, according to the statement. He was arrested and transported to the Anchorage jail, where his breath alcohol content was measured at .128, according to the probable cause statement. Alaska's legal blood-alcohol limit for driving is .08.

He was released later that day, according to court records.

Best's attorney, Lisa Rosano, filed a motion in April to dismiss the OUI charges, saying a field sobriety test at the time of his arrest was inaccurate because Best had received a steroid shot in his back earlier that day after previously being injured in a car accident.

"Investigators knew and/or should have known that field sobriety tests conducted on a seriously injured person are not reliable evidence of intoxication," according to the document filed by Rosano.

Anchorage prosecutors said there was probable cause for his arrest outside of the field sobriety test, including turning off his lights and improperly turning off the exit, which are "indicative of potentially impaired driving," according to the municipality's motion opposing the dismissal.

As part of the case, Best was also fined $990 for driving more than 30 mph over the posted 65 mph speed limit.

A hearing date has not yet been set for the motion to dismiss the Anchorage OUI charge. Best has not yet paid the fine.

Best was elected to the Palmer City Council in 2006 and most recently re-elected in October. His current term expires in 2026.

Best was the subject of scrutiny in early 2020 after he made an early morning phone call to Palmer police with an "unorthodox request" that they send a patrol car to his home and play Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" for his wife over the loudspeaker, mimicking a scene in the 1989 movie "Say Anything," according to the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman. Palmer police denied his request.

The incident sparked a failed recall effort as well as monthslong debate on the city council over the implementation of a code of ethics for Palmer's elected officials, which was later approved in March 2021.

That code calls on elected officials to "avoid the appearance of impropriety," among a number of other requirements. The council can vote to publicly reprimand or censure a council member for ethics violations, according to city attorney Heath.

The mayor and council can also order an investigation by the city attorney into any council member suspected of violating the code of ethics, she said. No such investigation has been ordered in connection with Best's drunk driving charges or Tuesday's plea, she said.

Palmer's elected officials are also governed by city and state laws and a city code signed by the mayor and council members, Heath said. Elected officials can be removed from office through a recall election, if convicted of a felony or if convicted of election-related crimes, she said.

Palmer Mayor Steve Carrington did not return a request for comment on whether officials may consider an investigation or censure in the future related to the OUI charge or plea agreement.