St. Augustine Beach commissioner resigns after wife’s arrest on DUI charge

Ernesto Torres said the decision was made ‘to spend more time with my family’

ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. – A St. Augustine Beach commissioner has resigned from his position following the arrest of his wife, who was charged with driving under the influence.

According to the police report, she was arrested a little more than a week ago in St. Augustine Beach. Because the charge is a misdemeanor, News4JAX has withheld her identity from this story.

Investigators said they spotted a Ram truck in front of their cruiser driving erratically, pulling the truck over close to the St. Augustine Beach Pier on A1A. The officer’s report states that the driver was blocking traffic on 11th Street at A1A when they made the traffic stop late on the night of Jan. 22.

In the passenger seat, investigators said, was now former Commissioner Ernesto Torres. Officers said his wife was behind the wheel.

Torres took office one year ago, with three more years in his term.

In the arrest report, officers said his wife refused to answer questions on whether she’d been drinking, refused a breathalyzer and field sobriety tests, and then was arrested.

Officers say Torres was upset during the arrest and tried calling St. Johns County Sheriff Rob Hardwick. He’s the former St. Augustine Beach Police Chief.

On Jan. 25, the police chief and city attorney addressed a letter to the Florida Commission on Ethics, criticizing Torres. The letter claims Torres called the police chief 29 times, including from the scene of the arrest, asking for charges to be dropped.

Documents show Torres called Police Department Commander Travis Harrell 18 times, all of which led the police chief and city attorney to file their complaint.

While Torres did not address the incident with police, he resigned effective Monday, saying it’s “to spend more time with my family.”

His LinkedIn page shows Torres is a veteran, who served in the Florida National Guard for 26 years and a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army.

Police said Torres told them he served with Sheriff Hardwick in Iraq.

Torres was elected Nov. 2020. The St. Augustine Beach Commission will address the process for replacing him at their meeting next week.

On Tuesday, Torres responded to an email from News4JAX. When asked if he had any comment on the circumstances surrounding his resignation, he wrote: “I resigned effective January 31st, to spend more time with my family.”

When asked if he wished to comment on the Florida Commission on Ethics Complaint filed by the police chief and city attorney, he wrote: “I have not seen the complaint.”


About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.