Former Wasilla rec director arrested on drug charges along with DUI

zhollander@adn.comOctober 21, 2013 

WASILLA -- Charging documents filed Monday in Palmer District Court shed new light on the driving under the influence arrest of former Wasilla recreation director John Combs, who resigned after someone spotted him drinking on the job two weeks ago.

For one, the two-term Palmer mayor was also arrested on a misdemeanor drug charge during the traffic stop just that started at midnight on Oct. 9, according to the documents.

The drug charge stems from the fact that Alaska State Trooper Gary Cox found a single, 1-milligram tablet of Xanax on Combs, according to a sworn affidavit Cox filed with the charges. Combs didn't "present" a prescription and didn't mention the Xanax during questioning about medications, the trooper wrote. Xanax is a widely used anxiety medication.

The trouble started on Oct. 8 when someone saw Combs drink at least three beers while he was working the Tuesday Night Fights at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center, Wasilla Mayor Verne Rupright has said. Someone - it's not clear whether it was the same person -- made a Report Every Drunk Driver Immediately, or REDDI, call to 911 after Combs left the center, the mayor said.

Rupright suspended Combs without pay the next day. Combs resigned in the mayor's office a few hours later.

Reached at his home last week, Combs said he could not comment on the charges until the court case concluded.

Combs had served since April 2012 as director of Wasilla's recreational and cultural services department, and oversaw the sports center as well as the city library and museum. He was elected mayor of Palmer twice.

Cox pulled over Combs at midnight at Mile 37 of the Parks Highway near Trunk Road, according to the affidavit. The trooper said he stopped Combs because of the REDDI report as well as the fluctuating speed of his 2011 Chevrolet Canyon pickup, which the trooper also observed crossing the highway's fog line.

The trooper described Combs' speech as slurred and wrote he failed three of four field sobriety tests and admitted to drinking alcohol before driving, according to the document.

A breath test taken about an hour after the stop estimated Combs' blood-alcohol level at .06, below Alaska's legal limit for driving of .08.

The Xanax tablet was in a small plastic container that turned up during a search.

Combs was transported to Mat-Su Pretrial Facility and lodged on $500 bail. He bailed out the same day.

It wasn't clear why the trooper took so long to file the charging documents. Combs was charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence and fifth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance.

His arraignment hearing is scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Reach Zaz Hollander at zhollander@adn.com or 257-4317.

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