Syracuse mayor, resident clash again

Oct 26 2011 - 10:54pm

SYRACUSE -- Mayor Jamie Nagle got a test of her authority to have a resident removed from a meeting Tuesday, minutes before the city council voted to table a new outline of rules of conduct that spells out the authority of the mayor and council members and guidelines for order.

During the open portion of the meeting, resident Joe Levi was critical of the mayor and the proposed rules of order the council was to consider later on the agenda.

Levi, part of the group Syracuse Citizens for Fair Rules in Public Meetings, went after Nagle and said the rules would give the mayor too much authority.

He suggested at one point that they would give the mayor dictatorial powers by allowing the city's top elected official to use his or her discretion to remove a citizen perceived to be unruly.

"The mayor will essentially have the power to silence citizens if she doesn't want to hear what they have to say. Will she wield that power?" Levi said.

When Levi was told his allotted time was up, he continued to talk on the subject, sparking a confrontation with Nagle, who said groups have been organized to make her look bad.

When Levi appeared to press a point, the mayor asked Police Chief Brian Wallace to remove him. The chief approached Levi and said he could either sit down peacefully or be removed from the meeting.

After a minute or so of verbal exchange between Nagle and Levi, Councilman Alan Clark asked that Levi simply sit down out of respect for the council.

Levi did so.

The meeting marked the second exchange between Levi and the mayor.

At a meeting in September, Levi criticized Nagle and city officials for not having a public document prescribing rules of order for their meetings, as he said are required by state law.

City Recorder Cassie Brown, working with City Attorney Todd Godfrey, had drawn up six pages of guidelines for officials to consider, utilizing existing city code and guidelines, among other sources.

The matter became more complicated in the council's work session, before the general meeting, when Councilman Larry Shingleton passed out two handouts on possible guidelines outlined by the Utah League of Cities and Towns and asked that they be reviewed before any council action.

Several members of the council felt the outline presented by Brown addressed the suggested ULCT guidelines, but there was enough question that the issue was never finalized.

When the council did come to a potential vote on the guidelines, the matter was quickly and unanimously tabled. Council members are likely to address the issue in November.

Discussion of the issue continued after the council finished its regular business.

Brown asked to have a comment entered on the record, as she felt the criticism of the new guidelines was leveled at her.

In her remarks, Nagle said Brown had been caught in the crosshairs of something aimed at the mayor, not the city recorder's office.

"I don't think it was directed at you. I think it was directed at me," Nagle said.

She also refused to apologize for asking that Levi be removed, saying she would defend the city's staff.

Nagle is not up for re-election this year.

Ironically, one of the guidelines in the tabled sets of guidelines calls for civility in council meetings. Those proposals also suggest the mayor is to "maintain order" at meetings and to move along the agenda in a "sensitive way."

The proposal also stipulated the council shall not engage in personal attacks and shall restrict comments to issues before the body.

Any violations of decorum or conduct of council members shall be addressed by the mayor, who may declare a member out of order, the rule said.

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