Former leaders: MADD lost focus

1996-07-28

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Pinellas County Mothers Against Drunk Driving started out as the voice of the victim, says founder Diane Fradin.

A small core of stalwarts whose loved ones were victims of alcohol-related crashes spoke before county commissioners, rallied outside courthouses, criticized law enforcement officials and even made citizen’s arrests in an effort to combat what they called “domestic terrorism,” more commonly known as drunken driving.

But that was 1983, just after Fradin’s 25-year-old daughter, Laurie Ferguson, was killed in a crash that involved a drunken driver. Determined to put an end to DUI, Fradin stopped working as a real estate agent to start a MADD chapter in Pinellas County.

“We put our heart and soul into this chapter,” Fradin said in a recent interview. Today, her efforts for MADD are just memories. She and number of other disenchanted former presidents and members left that organization. In fact, at least four of the chapter’s seven past presidents no longer are active in Pinellas County MADD, although they still are active in fighting DUI.

They say that the once-bellowing voice for justice has become a squeal, quieted by politics and an all-too-cozy relationship with law enforcement.

A major point of tension is the fact that MADD currently allows police officers to sit on its board of directors.

Thad’s a conflict of interest, says Fradin and others, such as Vicki Gilbert, chapter president from 1991 to “92, and Tom Carey, a personal injury lawyer in Clearwater who was president from 1984 to “86.

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