Portal police Chief Jason Sapp is back on duty after a two-week suspension regarding personal car repairs that were billed to the city.
On May 29, Sapp had air conditioner repairs made to his personal 2003 Crown Victoria at Gary’s Radiator Service in Statesboro. The repairs were billed to the city of Portal, which issued check No. 14784 for $1,321.39 to pay for the repairs, according to records from Portal City Hall requested by the Statesboro Herald Wednesday.
Sapp said the mix-up with the bill could have been due to the city having a similar vehicle of the same make and model. He said that when the mistake was discovered, he repaid the money to the city.
Portal City Clerk Mike Arrieta provided the Statesboro Herald a copy of a personal check dated June 24 showing Sapp repaid the amount.
Portal Mayor Larry Motes spoke with the Statesboro Herald about the matter off the record but asked that no comment be made on the record.
The car repairs included a new compressor, accumulator, air conditioner compressor, evaporator, belt tensioner, refrigerant and seals, an air conditioner flush, antifreeze and labor, according to copies of handwritten statements from the radiator service.
Sapp said that he told the radiator shop to send him the bill, but it instead was sent to the city.
Gary Smith, owner of Gary’s Radiator Service, said he recalls the work done on a Crown Victoria, but he wasn’t sure at the time of the repairs whether the car was Sapp’s personal vehicle or the city’s.
“I thought it was a Portal police car,” he said Thursday. “We’ve done a lot of work over the years for the city of Portal.”
He said he wasn’t clear on whether he specifically was asked to bill the repairs to the city.
The bills presented to the city of Portal did not include a vehicle identification number or any other information referring to ownership of the car.
During a called meeting of the Portal City Council June 25 with Mayor Larry Motes and council members Billy Boggs, Nan Finch, Jerry Lanigan, Clint Lovett and Jennifer Yates present, the council voted unanimously to suspend Sapp for two weeks without pay.
The council also voted to have all future repairs of more than $500 first approved by the mayor and council and to have vehicle identification numbers posted on all repair bills and documentation.
“It wasn’t intentional on my part,” Sapp said Thursday. “It was my bad luck, I guess.”
He said the city had paid the bill before he realized the error.
Sapp was suspended June 27 through July 11. He parked the city’s patrol car at City Hall and was off duty during the entire two weeks, except for when he had to appear in municipal court as a witness for cases, according to Portal City Council minutes from the June 25 called meeting.
Portal City Councilman Clint Lovett declined to comment on the matter Thursday, while other council members were not immediately available for comment or did not return calls seeking comment.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.