Ex-Wasilla rec director claims his meds conflict with jail time

Zaz Hollander

PALMER -- A state judge in early April sentenced former Wasilla recreation director John Combs to serve three days in a halfway house in Anchorage on charges stemming from his driving under the influence arrest last year.

But Combs is now asking to be released on in-home, electronic monitoring unless state corrections officials can resolve issues with medications he needs to treat chronic health problems, according to documents filed in Palmer District Court.

The 63-year-old former two-term Palmer mayor earlier this month entered a plea deal to reduced charges of reckless driving, according to court documents. Prosecutors dismissed a low-level drug charge.

An Alaska State Trooper pulled over Combs last October after someone called in a report of a possible drunken driver. Combs was headed home from a night working the Tuesday Night Fights at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center.

The trooper swore in an affidavit that Combs slurred his words and failed three of four field sobriety tests. The trooper also found a single tablet of Xanax on Combs, who didn't have a prescription with him.

His estimated blood-alcohol level at the time of the arrest was .06, under the .08 legal limit for driving, city officials said at the time.

Wasilla Mayor Verne Rupright suspended his recreation director without pay the next day, saying publicly that someone had seen Combs drinking beer during the fight event. Combs resigned a few hours later. Wasilla has since hired Joan Klapperich as its director of recreation and cultural services.

Combs was charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence and misconduct involving a controlled substance.

Given the plea deal, District Court Judge John Wolfe on April 3 sentenced him to 40 days in jail, with 37 suspended, as well as two years of probation and a 30-day loss of his license.

Combs showed up at Cordova Center on April 8 but was told he couldn't be remanded because of the prescription medications he requires, according to his request for the judge to delay his jail start date. The document didn't detail the medications.

Combs, in a sworn affidavit, said he's been on them for a long time and is in failing health. His physicians have told him that going off the medications could cause a fatal reaction, the affidavit says.

Combs requested a delay in his remand date to either get the state to approve electronic monitoring or approve his use of the medications.

"I am not attempting to avoid service of my sentence," he said in the affidavit. "Rather, I believed the Cordova Center would accept me with my medications in the original containers so that those prescribed meds could be dispensed while I was incarcerated."

Wolfe approved delaying the start of his incarceration until May 13, if Combs has not been accepted by the state Department of Corrections for electronic monitoring by then.

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