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Fahrenholtz: 'I have a serious problem with alcohol'

Former OPSB member charged with felony



  On advice of counsel, former Orleans Parish School Board member Jimmy Fahrenholtz said he can't discuss details of the bizarre case that resulted in his recent felony arrest by State Police.

  He said he can't remember much about his April 22 visit to the state Capitol or returning to New Orleans with an iPad and other items — all reported stolen that day by a lobbyist in Baton Rouge. Fahrenholtz also said he can't recall much about the State Police search of his Bayou St. John home five days later, when the iPad reportedly was found in a body of water in his backyard.

  Fahrenholtz, an attorney who has been suspended from the practice of law since 2009, said he agreed to an interview because he wanted the public to understand "why" he now faces criminal charges of theft and obstruction of justice.

  "In the last five days or so, I have admitted to myself — finally — that I have a serious problem with alcohol and it has been ongoing and serious for decades," Fahrenholtz, 65, said in an interview at his home April 30. "I have serial episodes of very heavy drinking where I have absolutely no recollection of what I do. That is the case in this case."

  Fahrenholtz said he has been drinking since he was 11 years old. "I am what they call a 'blackout drunk' or 'oblivion drunk,'" he said. "I can drink a phenomenal amount of alcohol." On the day of the the reported iPad theft, "I can't remember that I drove home," he admitted.

  "Vodka is my poison of choice," Fahrenholtz said, adding he takes no prescription drugs other than "blood pressure medication." He said he kept vodka in a water bottle. "People have no idea, literally, that I'm drunk," he said. "Even though I can function at very high level, I have no idea that I'm doing it." Fahrenholtz said he and his wife, Pamela Butler, will decide by Monday (May 4) whether he should seek inpatient or outpatient treatment for his alcohol abuse.

  A State Police spokesman couldn't be reached for comment, and an arrest report was unavailable at press time.

  Fahrenholtz continues to defy the Louisiana Board of Ethics and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Louisiana Supreme Court. He denounced the state ethics board as a "political organization" with a "personal" vendetta against him.

  Kathleen Allen, executive director of the ethics board, said Fahrenholtz owes the state more than $28,000 for failing to file campaign finance reports during his eight years as a member of the School Board (2000-2008). "We've turned those records over to the State Attorney General's office for collection," Allen said.

  Fahrenholtz also insists he's "retired" from practicing law. Charles Plattsmier, chief disciplinary counsel for the Louisiana Supreme Court, said Fahrenholtz is a licensed attorney. His license has been suspended for almost six years; he's been ineligible to practice law since Oct. 31, 2005, for failure to pay bar dues and a fee for the disciplinary investigation. In October 2009, the Supreme Court suspended Fahrenholtz for one year and one day, finding he failed to cooperate with two separate bar investigations — including one concerning misconduct that allegedly took place while he was a School Board official.

  Fahrenholtz may apply for reinstatement of his law license, pending review of his recent arrest and the outcome of the iPad theft case. "We are going to be following the events to see if he is guilty of any criminal misconduct," Plattsmier told Gambit.

  Fahrenholtz said he spent "a day and a half" in an East Baton Rouge Parish jail after surrendering on the criminal charges. He remains free on bond.

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