The owner of the Bulloch County body shop where former Pembroke police chief Mark Crowe had patrol cars repaired spoke out Monday, claiming Pembroke City Council members had harmed his business’ reputation.
During the council’s regular meeting at City Hall, Valli Gapac, owner of Valli’s Precision Collision Repair in Bulloch County, said the council had “downed his integrity,” by remarks to the press surrounding Crowe’s termination as police chief in June.
“In the newspaper it reads ‘Mark gets fired because he gets car repaired out of county,’” Gapac said. “It’s all over the place. In the newspapers, on TV.”
Gapac singled out council member Diane Moore and mayor pro tem Johnnie Miller during his remarks to the council.
“I read in newspaper Mr. Miller was quoted saying business needs to stay in the county,” Gapac said. “My business may be out of the county, but I’ve invested $50,000 in the school system and everything else in this county.”
He said “my heart was broke” after talking with Moore.
“Her comments to me were to let it lay down? Well, how do you let your integrity lay down?”
Following the meeting, Moore said Gapac didn’t tell the whole story.
“I also told him ‘this is not about you, Valli, but if you feel you need to do something to come to the council meeting and get in on the agenda in public comments and tell good things about your business, not about somebody else but come in and tell good things about your business,’” she said.
Miller said he was surprised by Gapac’s claim.
“I wish someone would show me the newspaper that statement was in. I never made the statement that everything should be bought in Pembroke,” he said after the meeting. “I don’t buy everything in Pembroke. You can’t. There are some things we don’t have here in Pembroke.”
Miller said Gapac was a strong supporter of Bryan County High School and praised his work for Pembroke, which Gapac claimed Monday “made the city money,” at times.
“The way I perceive things, me and Mark made money for the city,” he told the council. “How many times has that ever happened for the city?”
Gapac, who said his shop has repaired hundreds of Georgia State Patrol cars in the past 16-18 months and has worked on Pembroke patrol cars in the past, hinted at legal action in his remarks to council.
“It’s an extreme integrity issue and I’m going to defend my business. We did everything ethical and the city has not one time defended me,” he said. “I feel the city’s done me wrong and my business wrong. We pursued legal council.”
At the city’s June 11 city council members released a statement claiming Crowe, who sat in the front row Monday night, had resigned.
Crowe said he had been given a choice of apologizing to former Pembroke city councilman Joey Burnsed and accepting a demotion to star corporal.
Burnsed is the owner of Burnsed’s Body Shop in Pembroke. He went before the council in May to complain Crowe had awarded a bid for repairs to Gapac despite it being the highest cost.
Crowe initially said he would not accept the demotion, then said he intended to go to work. The city then said it terminated Crowe, who has since hired attorney Jeff Arnold.