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Former councilman was 3x legal alcohol limit when he crashed into car, police say
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Former councilman was 3x legal alcohol limit when he crashed into car, police say

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Michael Opinker

HAMMOND — Former City Councilman Michael Opinker smelled like alcohol, swayed unsteadily on his feet, and had a slurred, thick-tongued speech when he was stopped by a police officer for alleged drunken driving the night of Dec. 29, police allege. 

Opinker's attitude was also "friendly," and "business-like," the officer noted, according to charging documents filed in Lake Superior Court last week. 

He allegedly failed a balance test, a walk-and-turn test, and other tests to determine his level of sobriety, the affidavit states. 

Opinker, 59, faces four misdemeanor charges: operating a vehicle while intoxicated with a BAC of .15 or higher, OWI while endangering a person and OWI. He was cited for driving left of center, records state. 

Opinker, who is also Hammond's chief fire inspector, was found to have a blood alcohol content of .260, or more than three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent, according to police.

Hammond police were dispatched at 9:06 p.m. Sunday to the 2600 block of 163rd Place for a report of a crash, police have said.

When officers arrived, they discovered that a black sports utility vehicle, driven by Opinker, had struck a parked car, Kellogg said. 

The officer wrote Opinker admitted being the driver when the crash occurred. 

No injuries were reported.

Opinker at City Hall

Opinker earned an annual salary of $95,187.34 as chief fire inspector in 2018, the latest figure available, according to the state's Gateway salary database. 

The 59-year-old served on the Hammond City Council from 2010 and 2016, when he resigned after he and other elected officials lost a court battle challenging the state's 2012 double-dipping law. 

That law forbids local government employees from holding public offices that give them financial and policy-making authority.

The law forced Opinker and three other municipal officials to leave elected office so they could retain their more lucrative jobs as city employees.

At the time, Opinker said he couldn’t afford to give up the substantial salary he received as an assistant Hammond fire chief. His city council job paid $30,000 annually for part-time work. 

Gallery: Recent arrests booked into Lake County Jail

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North Lake County Reporter

Lauren covers North Lake County government, breaking news, crime and environmental issues for The Times. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting from UIS. Contact her at lauren.cross@nwi.com or 219-933-3206.

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