By BRIAN POWELL TRIBUNE
East Valley Tribune
When Skin Cabaret owner Todd Borowsky was pulled over by Scottsdale police officers and arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, the charges had the potential to be headline-grabbing news. At the time of his May 21 arrest, the 37-year-old strip club owner was in the midst of a high-profi le political campaign to defeat Proposition 401 and overturn the City Council-approved ordinance that he said would drive his strip club out of business. That vote, which also impacted Babe’s Cabaret, was less than four months away.
Borowsky had already become a regular in newspaper articles because of the crackdown on his club and his public opposition to a proposed city spending-cap increase for public safety and other services. The measure was approved by voters the week before his arrest.
But Borowsky’s arrest never made news because he was not drunk while driving his Bentley through downtown Scottsdale. Scottsdale police learned less than a week after his arrest that Borowsky was actually legally sober, but his criminal charges remained throughout the campaign because of the police’s unusual step of ordering a urine test to search for drugs.
No drugs were found by the urine test, which was completed six days after the Sept. 12 election.
Less than two weeks later, the charges were dropped. The incident finally came to a close last month as Borowsky pleaded guilty to one speeding charge and paid a $203 fine.
When Scottsdale voters defeated Prop. 401 in September, Borowsky had been told his blood alcohol content was .043, below the .08 legal limit. But because the urine test result was not completed until six days after the election, Borowsky had no way of clearing his name if the charges were ever used against him in the campaign.
Was the long wait for the test result a bureaucratic delay that could have happened to anyone? Or did police – knowing five days after the arrest that Borowsky was sober – delay the start of the urine test to assure the charges would be pending through election day?
Borowsky said Mayor Mary Manross may have been working behind the scenes to discredit him.
“People have said that Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross may have strong-armed the police department to put me through this to benefit her in the (Prop. 401) campaign,” Borowsky said. “Who knows the depths of what that woman will go to, to further her political agenda.”
Manross vehemently denied any involvement at any stage in the process.
“It’s absolutely, absolutely untrue and be sure to put that in (capital letters),” Manross said.
Scottsdale police Sgt. Mark Clark dismissed any theory of political motivation or that Borowsky was targeted or treated differently in any part of the process. He said the arresting officers didn’t even know who Borowsky was at the time.
“It was just an officer doing his job,” Clark said.
City Manager Jan Dolan, Manross and council members Betty Drake, Wayne Ecton, Jim Lane, Bob Littlefield and Ron McCullagh all said they were never told about the arrest and were not involved in any way. Councilman Tony Nelssen had not been sworn in at the time of the arrest.
Manross, Ecton and Littlefield all knew about the incident, saying they thought they read about it in the newspaper. However, Borowsky said he never saw a story published on the arrest, and Clark said the Tribune made the first inquiry into the matter.
On Sunday night, May 21, Borowsky was driving his 2004 Bentley in downtown Scottsdale at a high rate of speed, according to the police report. Borowsky told the Tribune he had just finished a long dinner with his family at a Scottsdale Fashion Square restaurant where he had two margaritas.
Police trailed him westbound on Indian School Road, where the report states Borowsky passed four vehicles and police were traveling 55 mph in a 40 mph zone to try to keep up with him. Borowsky then turned left just past 64th Street and pulled over. There was an odor of an alcoholic beverage, he had bloodshot watery eyes and his face was flushed, according to the report. Borowsky also did not have current proof of insurance.
Borowsky refused to perform field sobriety tests. Police searched the car but found nothing and then handcuffed the Scottsdale resident and brought him back to the station, where after speaking with an attorney he submitted to a blood alcohol test and a urine test.
Scottsdale police did not send out any information about the incident before or after the blood alcohol test. “I can confirm that the officer’s direct supervisor at the time did not recognize the name of the person arrested and processed the paperwork without thinking any more of it,” Clark said.
The blood alcohol results came back within a week, yet the urine test – which was ordered by the officer at the same time – was not received by the lab for more than two months.
Clark offered explanations why it could have taken until July 25 for the lab to start testing, but did not have a specific reason for this case. Clark said urine tests are only conducted once per month or less depending on need, and then normally takes between 30 to 60 days from the time the lab receives the sample. Clark said ordering a urine test is not standard for DUI cases but done when police suspect drug use.
Blood tests, on the other hand, are done weekly.
“There’s more of an urgency on the blood, it’s quicker to do and is the primary testing for blood alcohol content,” Clark said.
There have been only two urine test requests over the last three months, Clark said. The timeline in this case would not have hindered the prosecution or tainted the sample, which is good for a year, he said.
Scott Maasen of the Scottsdale-based Maasen Law Firm, which handles DUI cases but is not involved in this matter, said the nearly 60 days it took to complete the urine test was normal.
But what Maasen found unusual is why it took more than two months for the department to start the urine test.
“Something could have been on, but on the other hand that could just be how the cards fell,” Maasen said.
On Sept. 21, Scottsdale’s legal department sent Borowsky’s attorney a letter with the toxicology results. One week later, his attorney filed a motion to dismiss.
“It would appear to the most casual observer that the police officers involved in the arrest were on a ‘fishing expedition,'” wrote attorney Clifford Girard, who represented Borowsky.
One day after receiving the motion to dismiss, the city dropped the DUI charges, one speeding charge and no proof of current insurance charge. On Nov. 14, Borowsky pleaded guilty to driving between 10 and 15 mph over the speed limit. Borowsky first became a figure in Scottsdale politics in August 2005, when Scottsdale police raided Skin Cabaret. The city issued criminal misdemeanor citations in October 2005 to Borowsky and club strippers for alleged violations of regulations on sexually oriented businesses.
Two months later, the council passed tougher regulations affecting Skin and Babe’s, which is partially owned by Jenna Jameson. Borowsky then helped gather signatures that forced the Prop. 401 vote. He then fought the spending cap increase, which voters approved.
In October, he pleaded guilty to not having proper signs and not wearing an identification badge stemming from the Skin Cabaret investigation.
Of all his run-ins with the city, a positive result on Borowsky’s blood alcohol or urine test could have been the most devastating for the No on Proposition 401 campaign, which was portraying Borowsky and his father, Eric, as upstanding local businessmen fighting an over-regulating council. In the end, the DUI incident never played a role in the election, in which 52 percent of voters sided with Borowsky and the strip clubs and overturned the stricter regulations adopted by the council.
Borowsky now awaits a scheduled City Council hearing in January to talk about the future regulation of the city’s sexually oriented businesses.
And for the first time in more than a year, he’s in a position to talk without pending criminal charges in Scottsdale City Court.