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Regional agency head suspended after DUI arrest in Martin County

PALM CITY — The leader of a Treasure Coast-wide agency established to provide classes for people convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs was suspended from her job Wednesday in the wake of her DUI arrest Monday.

The Comprehensive Offender Rehabilitation and Education program will continue to operate normally despite the arrest and suspension of its executive director, Margot "Peggy" Cioffi, 59, of Palm City, program officials said.

The nonprofit agency serves about 5,000 clients per year in Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee counties, providing educational services to people on probation for DUI and other misdemeanors, among other programs.

"I feel bad for Peggy because this is very out of character for her," said State Attorney Bruce Colton, the president of CORE's board of directors. "It's bad for her and it's bad for the public perception of the program.

"She's been dedicated to this program. She's worked at it for years and brought it from nothing to a very comprehensive program that's very respected around the state," Colton said.

"But the CORE program will go on. It's a large program. It's run by full-time people in four counties. All of the programs, everything will continue as normal."

Cioffi, whose blood alcohol level was measured in a breath test at 0.336, could not immediately be reached for comment. The legal driving limit in Florida is 0.08 percent.

An auto accident on Martin Downs Boulevard in Palm City shortly after 5:30 p.m. Monday led to Cioffi's arrest about an hour and a half later at her home in the Lighthouse Point subdivision, a deputy's report says.

Cioffi was accused of striking another car with her Nissan SUV near Matheson Avenue, driving home, pulling away from a deputy as he tried to handcuff her, and screaming so loud neighbors came out of their homes, a deputy's report says.

Cioffi was charged with DUI with property damage, leaving the scene of an accident with property damage, resisting arrest without violence and disorderly intoxication, a deputy's report says. She was released from the Martin County Jail on Tuesday on $2,000 bond.

Colton said he asked Gov. Charlie Crist to appoint another state attorney to handle Cioffi's case to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. He makes such requests about three or four times a year, Colton said.

CORE's board suspended Cioffi without pay on Wednesday pending the resolution of the criminal charges, Colton said. The board also named Suzanne Caudell, CORE's program manager, to be the group's acting director.

Cioffi has been CORE's executive director since 1989 and previously served as an evaluator and instructor, Caudell said.

"She grew that organization from just a DUI school into a four-county program that was not only educational, but also handled probation services," Caudell said. "She has done a lot of good for the community over the years."

Regional agency head suspended after DUI arrest in Martin County : Roads : TCPalm
 

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