James Curcio, Atlantic County Freeholder Chairman, from Hammonton, Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Vernon Ogrodnek

Atlantic County Surrogate James Curcio faces allegations of drunken driving — the second time in two years — after the Buick he was operating was observed driving erratically in Mullica Township on Friday, police said.

“It’s a bad situation but I hope people don’t make a rush to judgment,” said Curcio, 51, a lifelong Hammonton resident. “Every situation is different, and I want to let it go through the court system. ... I’ll have a lot to say after.”

Mullica police stopped the vehicle in Hammonton on Route 30 just west of Moss Mill Road where a field sobriety test was administered at about 1:25 a.m., said police Chief John Thompson, who responded to an Open Public Records Act request for a copy of the preliminary police report.

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Curcio failed the test and subsequently was given a breath test but failed to provide an adequate sample, the report said. The surrogate, who presides over probate cases in the county, was taken into custody and charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, failure to maintain a lane and failure to consent to a breath test.

The Buick, which belongs to a member of Curcio’s family, was towed and he was released to the care of his wife, police said. Thompson said the police cruiser did not have a camera that would have captured video of the arrest.

While Curcio has an answer date of May 15, the case will likely be transferred out of Mullica because Curcio was a former prosecutor in the township as well as in other locales.

In 2010, while he was the Atlantic County freeholder chairman and running for the surrogate seat, Curcio was charged with DWI. He eventually pleaded guilty and had his driver’s license suspended for three months.

This latest arrest had opponents and fellow Republican Party members speaking out.

“The entire Atlantic County Republican organization is shocked and disappointed in hearing the news,” Republican Club Chairman Keith Davis said. “Jim Curcio is entitled to a hearing before any conclusions are reached. But if these charges are proven true, he has an obligation to do the right thing and immediately resign his position as surrogate.”

News Talk 1400 WOND radio host Harry Hurley was the first to report on this latest arrest. News of the incident spread quickly through the legal field, said Colin Bell, a Democrat running for freeholder-at-large who called on Curcio to resign.

“It’s really a matter of public confidence,” Bell, a lawyer and former prosecutor.

Friday is typically the day when surrogates have probate business, which makes his DWI arrest on that day troubling, Bell said.

“The public can’t have confidence he’s able to give his full attention,” Bell said. “It seems that he has a problem and he has to spend his time addressing that.”

Curcio was first elected freeholder in 1994. His biography on the county Republicans’ website said he is a member of the Atlantic County Alliance for Prevention of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

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