Brinkerhoff-Riley says she's no threat; admits drinking problem

EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Evansville City Councilwoman Stephanie Brinkerhoff-Riley said she has had recent relapses of a drinking problem that have contributed to profane voice mails and emails to City Council colleagues, as well as an online threat against her former campaign chairman.

Alex Jarvis, who managed Brinkerhoff-Riley’s successful 2011 campaign in the city’s Third Ward, filed a protective order with the Evansville Police Department on Friday against the councilwoman after she said in a Facebook conversation that Jarvis “needs a bullet. And that would be humane.”

The comment came during a Facebook conversation started by Brinkerhoff-Riley, in which she called Jarvis, a Democratic political consultant, as “a lying piece of (expletive) that you should be wary of getting involved with.”

Of Brinkerhoff-Riley, Jarvis said, “She’s a danger to herself, a danger to her community ... I think this indicative of a pattern of behavior with her.”

City Council President John Friend said he had an email exchange with Brinkerhoff-Riley late Thursday, during which she called him an “(expletive) criminal.”

That response came after Friend had emailed all City Council members about the state of various loans issued by the Department of Metropolitan Development.

Friend provided the Courier & Press copies of the email exchange and said he did so on the advice of Scott Danks, the council attorney. Friend had earlier played for reporters a May 12 voice mail from Brinkerhoff-Riley laden with expletives.

In that voice mail, which Brinkerhoff-Riley left Friend after a council meeting, she expresses anger that Friend did not recognize her during a discussion about an ordinance she had drafted and says: “I will take every opportunity over the next 18 months to return the favor and to do it in council chambers.”

Friend requested additional security at the next few City Council meetings.

Brinkerhoff-Riley said she is no threat to Jarvis, although she acknowledged the two had a personal “falling out.” It was rooted in the council’s consideration last year of public funding in the Downtown convention hotel project.

“We had a personal conversation that went to Facebook ... my not liking Alex does not mean I would attempt to hurt him,” Brinkerhoff-Riley said. She had made similar comments when asked about the voice mail, saying she was not to be taken literally.

On Friday, Brinkerhoff-Riley admitted to an ongoing struggle with alcoholism and that she’s determined to overcome. She spent time in a rehabilitation center in 2012 and was absent from a few council meetings.

“I have had a drinking problem, and I went into recovery more than two years ago,” Brinkerhoff-Riley said. “Earlier this year, I had some issues where I relapsed. As I have struggled to get back into my program, I have send some (bad) emails and messages. I regret the meanness of the messages. It’s a problem I have to address.

“But it is ridiculous to say I would ever act on anything. I’ve never been accused of anything in the 26 years I have lived here. But the last few months and what it did to my life made it difficult for me what to do was required of my life, and to do it well.”

Controversy swirled around Brinkerhoff-Riley in the aftermath of her decision to record a confidential meeting in March between city government officials and the State Board of Accounts, regarding the city’s 2012 audit. She publicly released the recording in May, which led State Examiner Paul Joyce to demand a police investigation.

Other city government officials, including Friend, said Brinkerhoff-Riley’s clandestine maneuver was wrong and that she was not trustworthy, although a special prosecutor found that she had violated no law.

Brinkerhoff-Riley said she felt vindicated by that decision and would continue to call for “exit conferences” between local municipalities and state auditors to be open, even though others say audits are not final at that point.

She said the ordeal made her feel stress she did not handle well.

“I don’t mean to imply I’m having problems every day, but it’s been difficult, and I’ve managed it on half a dozen occasions, poorly,” Brinkerhoff-Riley said. “I went to a 12-step meeting (Friday) morning.”

Brinkerhoff-Riley attended the March meeting because she was City Council vice president at the time. She resigned the leadership position on the day her City Council colleagues had called a special meeting to vote on her removal.

Brinkerhoff-Riley last week announced she would be a candidate for re-election in 2015, and that she intends to run as a Democrat. She said Friday she regrets the tenor of her voice mails and emails to Friend, but she also made clear the two are not on good terms.

“John Friend led the charge three months ago for my removal with misdirected and undeserved abuse, and not so much as an apology,” she said “I think it’s crazy I continue to be attacked by him.”

Friend said the city needs to get back to its many issues at hand, and “we don’t need weapons of mass distraction.”

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