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Former Wasilla rec director accused of drinking on duty arrested for DUI

Zaz Hollander

John Combs, the Wasilla official who resigned Wednesday over accusations he drank at work, was charged with driving under the influence early Wednesday, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Combs was Wasilla's director of recreational and cultural services. He also served two terms as Palmer's mayor.

Wasilla Mayor Verne Rupright said he suspended Combs without pay Wednesday after someone reported Combs drank "at least three beers" while working the Tuesday Night Fights at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center.

Combs resigned in person Wednesday afternoon, Rupright said.

His DUI arrest was announced Thursday in a troopers dispatch.

A trooper arrested the 62-year-old Combs at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, according to the dispatch. Combs was stopped after complaints he was driving under the influence.

His vehicle was "observed driving erratically," troopers said.

Combs did not return a message left at his home Thursday.

City officials on Wednesday said his estimated blood-alcohol level at the time of his arrest was .06, under the legal limit for driving. It wasn't immediately clear Thursday morning what led troopers to arrest him. A troopers spokeswoman said the arresting officer was off during the day Thursday.

As of Thursday afternoon, no charging documents had been filed at the Palmer courthouse. Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said in a voice mail Thursday that his office hadn't yet received charging documents on the Combs case.

After his arrest, Combs was taken to Mat-Su Pretrial Facility, where he was held on $500 bail. He was fingerprinted and released on Wednesday with a directive to not consume alcohol, according to a release form filed at the courthouse.

In the space reserved for place of employment, Combs wrote "None."

Combs was working when someone said they saw him drinking, Rupright said. While other employees handled cleanup and other responsibilities, it was Combs' responsibility as director to supervise the event because beer and wine were sold.

City employees aren't allowed to drink on the job, the mayor said.

"It was reported to me he drank at least three beers," Rupright said Wednesday. "That's all it takes. You drink one when you're on duty and I'm going to suspend you."

Alaska law defines the crime of driving under the influence two ways: either a driver exceeds the .08 limit, or he is found to be operating a vehicle "while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage" or other intoxicating or controlled substance.

If a driver is under the legal limit, arrests are based on perceived signs of impairment, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors say they look for telling actions like swerving on the road, failing field sobriety tests or swaying during a traffic stop if a driver is below the legal limit. They look to see if drugs or something else factored into a driver's actions. They also check the time between the stop and the breath test, because alcohol metabolizes over time, causing blood levels to drop.

Combs is scheduled for arraignment on Oct. 22.

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


By ZAZ HOLLANDER
zhollander@adn.com