Wednesday, June 7, 2017

06072017 - Portage Mayor James Snyder repeatedly bumped Councilman Clem during heated confrontation at City Council meeting

Why didn't the police arrest Snyder??

Excuse me, but wasn't Snyder's violent outburst and repeatedly bumping into Councilman Clem a violation of federally indicted Snyder's bond???

"Clem said Snyder continually bumped him, called him names and made accusations. Snyder said Clem "chest bumped" him and used foul language. He denied touching Clem. Snyder admitted to using the word "coward" several times ... The two were separated twice by police officers who were at the meeting..." [06072017--Portage council meeting ends in 'chaotic mess', NWI Times]

Portage mayor, council remain at odds over salary ordinance
Chicago Tribune
June 23, 2017

City officials will again try to determine if city workers not represented by unions will get raises, how much those raises will be and if the council can support Mayor James Snyder's proposed reorganization of his parks department following a contentious City Council special meeting Friday.

The council, in a 4-3 vote, rejected a salary amendment from Snyder that would have given him wide leeway on paying workers and would have reorganized the parks department.

On a 4-3 vote, the council also rejected a list of amendments offered by Councilwoman Elizabeth Modesto, D-1st, that would have given non-represented workers across the board a $2,000 raise.

Much of the dispute during Friday's meeting was based alleged promises made in private meetings between the mayor, council members and among the three budget committee members and whether that committee held appropriate meetings to discuss the budget.

"There's been other people in those meetings," Snyder said after the meeting. "We're working on (the amendment), and we'll get it done."

In December, the council voted unanimously to keep salaries for unrepresented city workers at their 2016 levels until the council could approve an amendment from Snyder that would allow him to give raises.

Council President Mark Oprisko, D-At large, said then he wanted the council to wait until the city wrapped up contract negotiations with the fire, police, streets and sanitation departments and utilities services workers to have a better idea of how to handle raises for non-union workers, a position he maintained Friday.

Since then, the council's three-member budget committee, chaired by Modesto and including members Pat Clem, D-2nd, and Scott Williams, D-3rd, have largely been at odds with Snyder and several council members on how to handle salary increase request from the mayor.

For several years, Snyder has been given salary ranges to offer employees. This year, some of those ranges were as wide as $15,000 for some department heads and lesser ranges for lower level employees.

The mayor also reorganized his staff, consolidating workers from five different employee levels to three.

One of the biggest bones of contention came in what to do with one employee, for whom the mayor wants to recreate an assistant parks superintendent position. The budget committee members, instead, called for keeping that employee in her marketing spot, which pays less, and keeping open two other coordinator positions.

"In the past, I've been able to just navigate and make changes as needed with support from the mayor," said Parks Superintendent Jenny Orsburn. "I was surprised this has become an issue since it's been known about since last summer."

Modesto said she'll convene a meeting of the budget committee to revisit the raises before the council's meeting in early July.

"It is what is," Modesto said after the meeting. "What can you do? We proposed something we felt was fair across the board for all employees, because some of (the council members) were trying to take the focus off the salary ordinance itself. They tried to attack the budget committee."

Portage City Council continues to argue over employee pay
NWI Times
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.

EDITORIAL: Government embarrassment looms in Portage
The Times Editorial Board
Jun 9, 2017

It would seem Portage municipal government has more than a dark cloud of felony criminal indictment hanging over the mayor's office.

It also appears to have a problem with the tenets of civility.

Some Portage officials owe their constituents an apology for punctuating a contentious City Council meeting Tuesday with reports of aggressive chest-bumping and name calling.

It's the sort of behavior we wouldn't expect to be tolerated by rival students in a schoolyard, let alone amid important seats of local government.

Near the end of the meeting, council members began to talk about a continuing issue of collective bargaining and an proposed salary ordinance for nonunion city employees.

A contentious debate ultimately culminated into reports of Mayor James Snyder following Councilman Pat Clem, D-2nd, outside of City Hall, with the mayor calling Clem a "coward" or "fat coward."

Clem claims Snyder continually bumped him, called him names and made accusations.

Snyder said Clem "chest bumped" him and used foul language. Snyder also admits to calling Clem a coward several times.

It escalated to the point of police officers having to separate the pair of public officials twice.

This behavior is another unacceptable and embarrassing distraction from Portage public business.

Snyder already is under pending federal felony indictment, charged with bribery in an alleged towing contract scheme.

We've long argued Snyder should have resigned his mayor post after he was criminally indicted last fall. Though he's innocent unless proven guilty of the charges, a federal felony indictment casts too great a distracting shadow over the city's top government office.

Now Snyder is at the center of another local government embarrassment.

Snyder acknowledged he let his emotions get the better of him while standing up for Portage city employees.

In the end, he succeeded in distracting from his goal by contributing to a spectacle of bad behavior.

The people of Portage deserve better.

Portage council meeting ends in 'chaotic mess'
NWI Times
June 07, 2017

PORTAGE — City officials said Wednesday they will move forward following a City Council meeting the previous night that ended in an abrupt adjournment and a confrontation between the mayor and a council member.

"It was a chaotic mess and unprofessional on everyone's side," City Council President Mark Oprisko, D-at large, said Wednesday. "I felt bad that it went on."

Near the end of the meeting, council members began to talk about the continuing, and sometime contentious, issue of collective bargaining and a proposed salary ordinance for nonunion employees.

Council member Sue Lynch, D-at large, said she was upset the salary ordinance had been taken off the agenda. She also said she was upset that contracts had not been reached with three employee bargaining groups, blaming the city's negotiating team.

Lynch's comments were followed by others, including comments from council member Liz Modesto, D-1st District, who said Mayor James Snyder had threatened earlier in the evening that if the council did not approve the salary ordinance, he would not approve union contracts.

Snyder had left the meeting early to attend his son's birthday party, but was contacted by staff about the discussion and returned to the meeting.

"I thought it was very deceitful and cowardly they brought it up knowing I wasn't there and that the staff wouldn't be able to answer the questions. When I heard about it, I went to the meeting," he said.

Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham said when Snyder returned, he attempted to clear the front row of audience seats to have his department chairs take the seats, but shouting continued between the council and mayor. Stidham said Snyder was attempting to take the gavel from Oprisko when the council quickly voted to adjourn the meeting.

Councilman Pat Clem,D-2nd District, said as he started walking away from the meeting hall, Snyder confronted him, calling him a "coward" and a "fat coward."

The confrontation continued as the two walked down the stairs into the lobby of the building at the same time people were leaving a concert.

Clem said Snyder continually bumped him, called him names and made accusations. Snyder said Clem "chest bumped" him and used foul language. He denied touching Clem. Snyder admitted to using the word "coward" several times.

The two were separated twice by police officers who were at the meeting.

Clem said Snyder also confronted him in the parking lot before leaving.

Snyder said he let his emotions get the better of him and, in hindsight, probably shouldn't have returned to the meeting.

"I was not being emotional for me. It is important that I defend the hard-working people that hold this community together," said Snyder, adding he reached out to Clem on Wednesday.

"Me and Pat will figure it out," he said.

"I was embarrassed that the public witnessed what occurred last night, from both sides," said council member Collin Czilli, D-5th District.

Both he and council member John Cannon, R-4th District, voted against adjourning the meeting Tuesday, saying they wanted to hear Snyder out.

"Collin and I will sit down with the mayor and try to work out an arrangement," Cannon said about moving forward.

Oprisko said he hopes the issue of contract negotiations and the salary ordinance will be resolved in the next couple of weeks and believes the council can work together.

"We will get through it. It was a bad night. We've had a lot more good nights," Snyder said.

Salary ordinance discussion gets heated in Portage
June 07, 2017

A relatively routine Portage Common Council meeting Tuesday night collapsed into name-calling, finger-pointing, a sudden adjournment, accusations of grandstanding and intervention by police.

After hosting officials from U.S. Steel, who appeared before the council to discuss the April 11 toxic spill from their Midwest plant, the council turned to discussion of a salary ordinance for city workers, an issue that was a late addition to the meeting agenda.

Some council members complained about what they apparently viewed as Mayor James Snyder's mishandling of employee salaries during the discussion.

Snyder, excused himself from the meeting before the steel plant officials began speaking to attend a family function, but returned after receiving text message updates from staffers on the council's heated discussion of the salary ordinance.

As he re-entered the meeting hall, Snyder asked for the front row of audience chairs and ordered department heads attending the meeting to fill those seats. Several council members erupted with charges Snyder was "grandstanding" and trying to take over the council meeting, and they successfully called for a voice vote to adjourn the meeting.

Snyder called for the council to remain as several council members, including Liz Modesto, D-1st, and Patrick Clem, D-2nd, continued to accuse Snyder of grandstanding as they left the room. Snyder then called Clem a "coward."

"The situation is it just escalated," Snyder said Wednesday. "I probably shouldn't have gone back to the meeting, but this is not about me and my reputation. Its about the hard-working people of Portage who work every day and about them getting the compensation they deserve, and I'm gonna be passionate about it."

Snyder continued to discuss the ordinance with union officials and council members as they spilled into the hallway and down the stairs at Woodland Park's Sycamore Hall.

Clem, who physically towers over the mayor, and Snyder continued their debate as the group left the building, with Clem telling Snyder to meet "in my neighborhood" as Snyder ridiculed Clem for his weight and body size.

Once outside, the argument continued and the two elected officials got face-to-face. Snyder accused Clem of "chest-bumping" him.

Moments later, a Portage Police officer helped defuse the situation by separating the men.

"I was attacked by the City of Portage mayor calling me names, in public, saying that I'm nothing but a big, fat coward, and he repeatedly calling me coward," Clem said. "I don't wanna be the bad guy, but I think (Snyder) owes everyone in that room and our city's constituents an apology."

Even after they were separated, the dispute continued, Clem and Snyder said. Snyder approached Clem and two other council members in the parking lot, sparking another intervention by police officers.

"You had two men who were passionate about their issues who had a dispute," Snyder said. "Yes, it reflects poorly on the city, but we've had a few of those bad nights. I wish it hadn't happened, but the city's going to be all right, and we'll get through this."

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