COCKRELL HILL (CBSDFW.COM) - The police chief in Cockrell Hill has resigned after the city's mayor says information showed he sold impounded cars from the front window of the police department. A senior dispatcher has also resigned and the mayor says the information has been given to the district attorney.
Cockrell Hill put Michael Sellers on administrative leave last week. Mayor Luis Carrera said it followed a meeting with a citizen who said Sellers was not using abandoned vehicles for police work, or selling them at auction, but instead selling them directly to buyers. Dispatcher Lisa Maier was writing up the paperwork, Carrerra said, and also resigned.
Carrera said paperwork from the sales showed the city did receive the money from the sale. The vehicles, which Carrerra said included a couple mopeds and a Ford Mustang, were usually just sold for a few hundred dollars. He said he did not know who Sellers was selling the vehicles to, or why. Sellers and Maier, Carrerra said, both did not believe they had done anything wrong.
At a city council meeting Tuesday night, residents questioned if the city really knew everything.
"How many cars that we don't know about have been confiscated and sold," said Sam Rodriguez.
He was one of about 10 people at the meeting who thought in some cases the city may have made it intentionally difficult for people to reclaim vehicles, especially for Spanish-speaking residents.
Carrerra said all the cars involved were considered legally abandoned, and that the most recent title owners had been notified of the pending sale. Friday though, the city did change its policy on reclaiming cars. The person driving the car when it was towed will now be allowed to reclaim it. Previously, only the car's title holder could claim the car, which Carrera said could be an issue when it was owned by a friend or relative.
Carrera said the city impounds 200 to 300 cars a month. About 20 to 30 are sold at auction each quarter he said. Some care were auctioned between December 2012 and May 2013, the period when the city says the improper sales happened.
As part of the inquiry, the city council also rescinded a policy Tuesday allowing officers to take home abandoned cars. Carrera said it was allowed as a way for officers to use cars in police work, possibly undercover investigations. Part of the information given to the city Carrerra said, showed officers were sometimes just driving the cars, not as part of any specific work duty.
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