ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The sale on eBay of a city-owned vehicle used by Sarah Palin when she was mayor of Wasilla is causing a stir in small-town politics: One official says the current mayor is trying to fatten city coffers off Palin’s fame, and the mayor says “guilty as charged.”
The city of Wasilla, north of Anchorage, auctioned off a 1999 Ford Expedition with 74,188 miles used by Palin before she became a household name. A Fairbanks woman won the SUV on Nov. 27 with an online bid of $10,300, about $8,000 above its estimated value.
Mayor Verne Rupright said the intent was to use the profits to replenish the city’s vehicle replacement fund.
But Deputy Mayor Colleen Sullivan-Leonard proposed using the surplus to stock the shelves of the Food Pantry of Wasilla, a proposal that died Monday night on a 3-3 tie vote by the City Council. Rupright chose not to cast a deciding vote.
“I feel like it’s unfortunate the mayor would try to capitalize on Sarah Palin’s fame and her reputation,” Sullivan-Leonard said, adding she felt $8,000 “was above and beyond what the city coffers would need.”
Rupright countered it’s not fair to other worthy nonprofits to direct the money to one place. He added selling the surplus SUV for a fivefold profit is just good business.
Sullivan-Leonard said she wonders if this is the end.
“Down the line, maybe the mayor’s got some tables and chairs that Sarah Palin used he wants to put on eBay?” she said.
Rupright, speaking to The Associated Press by telephone from his office, said he was sitting on a chair the city bought for Palin when she was mayor.
“It’s getting a little old and dirty,” he said. They might get $10 for it at a secondhand store, or a Palin fan might pay $200 for it because she once sat in it.
“Somebody might find some value in it,” Rupright said. “If you can get some dollars back for it, you should try, in my mind. That’s just business.”
The auction winner hasn’t taken possession of the SUV yet, and she hasn’t been identified.
“She’s just a Palin fan, and she does have a small collection of cars,” said city’s public works director, Archie Giddings. “It’s a good fit for her.”
Palin drove the SUV during her second term as mayor, which ended in October 2002. It was later used by other city employees.