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Doctor faces DWI charges

By Staff | Jun 21, 2008

Michael Sparacino

A doctor on his way for a shift at United Hospital District’s emergency room in Blue Earth never made it to work on May 15.

Following a traffic stop for impeding traffic on Highway 169, a preliminary breath test showed 51-year-old Michael Louis Sparacino’s blood-alcohol level at .265.

When the North Mankato resident agreed to another breath test two hours later at Faribault County Jail, results from an intoxilyzer showed a blood-alcohol content of .24.

A complaint filed in Faribault County District Court on Monday, says Sparacino faces a third-degree charge of driving while intoxicated/alcohol and third-degree DWI/.08/ within two hours. Both counts carry a maximum penalty of one year and a $3,000 fine. He also is charged with traffic impeding-slow speed, a misdemeanor with a $300 fine.

UHD administrator Jeff Lang says he was made aware of Sparacino’s situation.

“We didn’t have any gaps in coverage. At no time were we left without medical services for the community,” Lang says.

The hospital, he says, contracts with Acute Care Inc. of Ankeny, Iowa, for its emergency room doctors.

Lang says the company staffs the emergency room seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

However, Acute Care attorney Jeff Oliver says Sparacino is not employed by his company.

“From what I know, he is an independent contractor,” says Oliver.

The hospital administrator says this is the first time anything like this has happened in the year and a half he’s been here.

He says the hospital has policies and procedures in place to ensure those showing up for work can perform their duties.

“All staff are able to provide their services at the highest level expected and in a professional manner,” says Lang.

In the court complaint, Winnebago police officer Tim Dirkes received a report at 6:30 p.m. of a vehicle swerving over the lanes of traffic on Highway 169, just north of the city. The Chevy Avalanche was southbound, says the complaint, when it stopped at the intersection of Highway 169 and First Avenue South — although there was no traffic sign or signal, nor any reason to stop.

After stopping Sparacino for impeding traffic, the officer reportedly could smell alcohol.

The complaint says Sparacino admitted he had consumed a couple of alcoholic beverages, and his eyes appeared bloodshot and glazed.

Sparacino also stuttered and appeared confused as he explained he was going to work at the hospital, says the complaint.

Although city attorney’s may handle gross misdemeanor DWI cases, the case was turned over to the county attorney’s office.

Winnebago’s city attorney Douglas Johanson, who also serves on UHD’s board, says the case will be prosecuted by the county to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.