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Houston city council votes to keep officer

Mayor denies telling Seidl to shoot eight unadopted animals

Posted: Wednesday, February 10, 2010

ANCHORAGE - The City Council in the tiny Alaska town of Houston voted 4-3 Monday night to allow a police officer to keep his job after he tangled with the mayor on two issues.

Sgt. Charlie Seidl was suspended after shooting eight unadopted animals at the city shelter last week. Seidl said Houston Mayor Roger Purcell told him to do that, but the mayor has denied it.

This week, Seidl came forward with a dash camera video that he says shows the mayor driving dangerously in a city police cruiser to Fairbanks. He also alleged that the mayor impersonated an officer by turning on the cruiser's emergency lights to pass other drivers.

Purcell has denied all of the officer's allegations.

Purcell earlier told KTUU-TV that he had fired two animal shelter employees and sought Monday night's City Council session to consider doing the same to Seidl.

Houston is a town of 1,755 north of Anchorage.

On Sunday, Seidl 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."

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 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."

Deputy Mayor Lance Wilson supported Purcell on that claim.

"There was absolutely no reason those dogs had to be shot last Tuesday," Wilson said. "This was completely unnecessary."

Weeks earlier, Wilson said, animal control officer Dennis Lords had told the City Council that the cost of euthanasia had increased. However, city officials discovered that the cost was much less than Lords' estimate, mostly because veterinarians had donated their time.

Lords also had included wear and tear on his vehicle and his own pay in the cost analysis, Wilson said.

"We had no reason to question what he was telling us, and now we find out it was contrived information he was giving us," Wilson said.

Lords was one of the two shelter employees fired by Purcell.

Wilson said Purcell did order Seidl, whose department oversees the animal shelter, and Lords to do their jobs - either adopt out the animals that were past their waiting period or euthanize them. The mayor did not give an order specifically saying the animals should be shot, Wilson said.

Purcell said a city attorney is reviewing the information in the allegations.

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Information from: KTUU-TV, http://www.ktuu.com



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