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U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent's staffer facing DUI charge

BROOKSVILLE — Soon after Cheryl Corder's Buick struck a power pole and vaulted end over end into the air, she was in the back of an ambulance talking to the paramedic treating her.

The 56-year-old told him she was drunk, a report shows. Corder also said she'd been drinking at work, from where she'd just left. And her boss, she explained to the emergency worker, is U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent.

Her blood-alcohol concentration was 0.23 at the time of her accident near the intersection of Powell Road and Endsley Road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. That's nearly triple the level at which Florida law considers a person to be under the influence.

Corder was arrested Thursday on a charge of DUI with property damage. She was booked into the Hernando County Jail, and her bond was set at $500. Sent to intensive care after the single-car accident, Corder's jail photo shows her wearing a neck brace.

The April 11 crash occurred around 2 p.m., about 15 minutes after, the congressman's spokesman said, she'd left work at the district office on Spring Hill Drive in Brooksville.

When Nugent spoke to a reporter Thursday afternoon, he hadn't received the arrest report but knew some details from the day of the accident.

Corder, who couldn't be reached for comment Thursday, had come into work late that day because she said she had a doctor's appointment that morning, Nugent said. Soon after, she told two fellow employees she wasn't feeling well and was going home.

"One of the employees asked her, 'Are you okay to drive?' " Nugent recalled being told by staff. "She said, 'No problem.' "

Just moments before the wreck, authorities say two witnesses saw Corder's 1992 Buick swerve several times into the oncoming lane and then veer back into her own lane. They called 911, but as they explained her erratic driving to the operator, Corder's car slammed into the power pole, twisted in the air and landed on its roof before sliding in a ditch.

The congressman said he didn't believe Corder had any history of alcohol abuse. Also, Nugent said, neither he nor his staff knew Corder had been drinking at work or that she was drunk when she left the office.

"If she was drinking at work," he said, "she must have hidden it in a soda bottle or something."

Before deciding whether to fire Corder, Nugent said he would wait to review law enforcement's findings.

"If she was drinking on the job," he said, "then I'm not going to keep anyone who does that."

She was among the large portion of Ginny Brown-Waite's staff Nugent retained after the former congresswoman stepped down in January. Corder had worked for Brown-Waite since 2003 and was paid $46,916 in 2010, according to legistorm.com. Brown-Waite did not immediately respond to an e-mail Thursday afternoon.

News researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or jcox@sptimes.com.

U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent's staffer facing DUI charge 05/12/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 12, 2011 8:15pm]
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