Houston mayor accused of misusing police car

Police: Mayor used police lights to pass other cars on the road

Posted: Tuesday, February 09, 2010

ANCHORAGE - The mayor of a tiny Alaska city denied Monday that he drove recklessly in a city police vehicle and impersonated an officer on a highway to Fairbanks.

Houston Mayor Roger Purcell also said he did not order a police officer to euthanize animals at the city shelter by shooting them. Houston is a city of 1,755 about 18 miles northwest of Wasilla.

Purcell told KTUU-TV that he had fired two animal shelter employees and planned to call a special city council meeting Monday night to consider doing the same to the police sergeant who reported details of Purcell's ride.

Police Sgt. Charlie Seidl on Sunday told the television station that Purcell borrowed the patrol SUV for a city business trip to Fairbanks because driving his own vehicle would cost the city too much in mileage.

When Purcell returned the vehicle, Seidl noticed the dash cam video had recorded the trip.

"It's one thing to respond to a legitimate emergency call with lights and sirens, or at high speeds," Seidl said. "It's another thing to just sort of do it as a joyride."

Seidl said he forwarded the video to City Councilwoman Virgie Thompson and the Palmer district attorney's office.

"In addition to the use of the flashing emergency lights, at least in my training, in my experience this to me would constitute reckless driving and impersonating a public servant in a capacity other than that he serves in," Seidl said.

Thompson called for the mayor to face charges.

"I would like to see him being charged with impersonating a police officer," Thompson said. "I would like to see him have to reimburse the city of Houston, whose funds - public funds that the citizens have - I think that he should have to reimburse that entire trip."

Thompson said the mayor is not allowed to travel without permission from the city council. The city was unaware of the trip, which Thompson called reckless and dangerous.

Purcell said that he did not impersonate a police officer, that Seidl's video was spliced and that the date on the video - May 6, 2010 - made it questionable.

The dashboard camera video does not show Purcell's face but records a woman that Seidl claimed was Purcell's wife.

Houston officials faced scrutiny last week, when Seidl, who said he was ordered by Purcell, used a gun to euthanize four dogs and four cats outside the city animal control building.

Purcell denied ordering the dogs shot and said Seidl "decided to do it on his own."

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