Portage council dissolves utility board; limits mayoral appointment
February 23, 2017
PORTAGE — In a quick meeting the City Council dissolved the Utility Services Board, restored the mayor's salary and limited the mayor's ability to appoint department heads.
The only discussion was on an ordinance which was approved 5-1 that would prevent Mayor James Snyder from taking an employee out of the Police or Fire departments and appointing them to an administrative position.
Councilman John Cannon voted no and Councilman Collin Czilli abstained because his parents are city employees
Joe Calhoun, who resigned last week as director of administration and emergency services, was officially an employee of the Fire Department while he served as the mayor's second in command. Joe Mokol, director of road safety and street superintendent, is officially an employee of the Police Department. Both received salaries and benefits from those departments while serving in the administration.
City Council President Mark Oprisko said Calhoun's resignation prompted the City Council to propose the ordinance.
Council members Sue Lynch, Liz Modesto and Scott Williams all said they supported the decision with Lynch and Modesto saying they had questioned the legality of Calhoun's and Mokol's appointments from the beginning.
Snyder defended his choices to appoint both Calhoun and Mokol to the administrative positions, saying he thought both had done good jobs. He also accused the council of misdirecting their issues with him on department heads.
"The fire directed at me is now being directed at the department heads," said Snyder who would not comment after the meeting on whether or not he intended to veto the ordinance. He also requested the council to grandfather Mokol into his position. The council did not amend the ordinance.
If the new ordinance stands, Mokol, who also would not comment, will have to make a choice, either to remain as street department superintendent and resign from the Police Department or resign from the administrative position and return to the Police Department.
In addition, the council unanimously dissolved the Utility Services Board, replacing the board with themselves, at least temporarily. The ordinance allows for a review of the decision in six months.
USB member Marci Kunstek said she was "a little disappointed" at the council's action and had been honored to serve on the board. She added that she hopes the change will allow the city to move forward.
Member Mark Hasza agreed with the decision, saying the disagreement between the board and the council was doing nothing but increasing city legal fees.
The decision means that Snyder will not have any control over the Utility Services Board and its finances. He will maintain the authority to hire and fire employees.
The council also voted unanimously to "adjust" Snyder's salary. He previously received a $53,000 salary from the city and $30,000 salary from the USB. He will continue to receive the full $83,000, but only from the city's funds.