WASHINGTON - FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt was placed on a leave of absence Monday as Department of Transportation officials decide how to handle Babbitt's weekend arrest on charges of drunken driving in Virginia.
DOT officials are in "discussions with legal counsel about Administrator Babbitt's employment status," said a statement released by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's office Monday afternoon. The Federal Aviation Administration is part of the Transportation Department.
Babbitt, 65, was charged with driving while intoxicated after a patrol officer spotted him driving on the wrong side of the street and pulled him over about 10:30 p.m. Saturday in Fairfax City, Va., police in the Washington suburb said.
Babbitt, who lives in nearby Reston, Va., was the only occupant in the vehicle, the statement said. Police said he cooperated and was released on his own recognizance.
Babbitt apparently delayed telling administration officials about the arrest. White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama and Transportation Department officials learned of the arrest Monday afternoon, about an hour before a statement was released saying Babbitt had been placed on leave at his request.
Fairfax City police issued a statement on the arrest to the media at about noon Monday. They refused to disclose the results of Babbitt's blood alcohol test. The legal limit is 0.08.
LaHood has aggressively campaigned against drunken driving, and is working with police agencies and safety advocates on an annual holiday crackdown on drinking and driving later this month.
Deputy FAA Administrator Michael Huerta will be acting administrator, the DOT statement said.
Babbitt was a former airline captain and internationally recognized expert in aviation and labor relations when Obama tapped him in 2009 to head the FAA.