"Part of the raucous discussion, which included Modesto telling Cannon, "Would you shut up," at one point, also dealt with whether some council members were attempting to target a parks department employee who had received a promotion. Oprisko said untrue rumors were spread about the employee, including accusations of ghost pay rolling." [Portage City Council continues to argue over employee pay. NWI Times. 06232017]
Portage City Council continues to argue over employee pay
June 23, 2017
PORTAGE — A special City Council meeting called to resolve the disputed salary ordinance turned into chaos Friday.
Council members exchanged accusations of withholding information, failing to act in good faith, targeting and/or favoring certain employees and lying.
In the end, nothing was accomplished.
At the center of the debate is the salary ordinance for nonunion employees. A salary ordinance was approved unanimously Dec. 6, 2016. However, it wasn't implemented when City Council President Mark Oprisko, D-at-large, suggested any salary increase wait until union contracts were completed.
When the firefighters contract was completed in April, officials began to again discuss raises for nonunion employees. The ordinance was on the council's May agenda, but removed when questions arose. It was again placed on the June 6 agenda, but again tabled.
The inaction at the June 6 meeting led to a confrontation between Mayor James Snyder and Councilman Pat Clem, D-2nd, with accusations of name calling and shoving in the hallway after the meeting.
The special meeting was called for Friday and the quarreling continued with Clem accusing Snyder of "unethical tactics," lying and "manipulation of employees."
Council member Liz Modesto, D-1st, said the budget committee, consisting of herself, Clem and Scott Williams, D-3rd, would not support the salary ordinance as presented by Snyder because they did not agree with setting wage ranges.
"We preach all the time about transparency; we should start living it," Modesto said. The committee was advocating exact salaries for each position.
She said allowing salary ranges for each position allowed Snyder to give larger increases to those who supported him.
Instead, she said, the committee was proposing across-the-board raises of $2,000. The proposal would also eliminate the positions of parks assistant superintendent and director of administration.
Snyder reminded Modesto that the council had previously approved the wage range idea and that concept was used in an attempt not to single out employees.
Snyder, a Republican, and Councilmen John Cannon, R-4th, and Oprisko questioned when the budget committee met and discussed these ideas. They accused the committee of not holding public meetings and being unwilling to meet with other council members. Cannon requested minutes of all the budget committee meetings, including texts and telephone records between committee members.
Part of the raucous discussion, which included Modesto telling Cannon, "Would you shut up," at one point, also dealt with whether some council members were attempting to target a parks department employee who had received a promotion. Oprisko said untrue rumors were spread about the employee, including accusations of ghost pay rolling.
In the end, a motion to suspend the rules and approve Snyder's proposed salary ordinance on its first reading failed with Modesto, Clem, Williams and Sue Lynch, D-at large, voting against it. It likely will come back before the council for a second reading at the council's July 5 meeting.
Also defeated was a motion by Modesto to amend Snyder's proposal and remove salary ranges and give equal raises across the board, with a few exceptions. Oprisko, Lynch, Cannon and Collin Czilli, D-5th, voted against the amendment.