Syracuse mayor defends gay city attorney, denounces hateful chatter

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 4:13 PM

Antone Clark

SYRACUSE — From the city council pulpit Tuesday night, Mayor Jamie Nagle defended two city staff members — including openly gay City Attorney Will Carlson — who she says were thrown under the bus by a group of local residents on social media,

In the wake of news headlines Tuesday in the Standard-Examiner detailing a recent rash of suicides in the city, Nagle used her closing remarks at the end of a combative meeting to defend Carlson and City Recorder Cassie Brown and to make a plea to residents to denounce hateful and hurtful speech. She disclosed Carlson’s sexual orientation with his consent, a fact the attorney was comfortable confirming with the Standard-Examiner after the meeting.

“Will I apologize? No one should ever be made to feel less than what they are. I don’t care what goeson in your bedroom, or your bedroom (directed to council members). I don’t care if I am labeled as a woman who loves gays. This community needs to come together,” a tearful Nagle said.

Nagle claimed the hurtful comments directed to Brown and Carlson were made on a Facebook page started by council members. The post in question involving Brown dealt with how recent open records, or GRAMA, requests were handled by the city recorder.

A review of the Facebook page also showed critical comments about Carlson’s advice on how GRAMA applied to the hiring process for a new police chief, but did not include any comments about his sexual orientation.

At least one council member, Karianne Lisonbee, said she has been linked to the web page in the past by the mayor, but said she doesn’t know who started the page. She made the comment in the company of Troy Shingleton, son of Councilman Larry Shingleton, who claims he knows who started the page and it wasn’t anyone on the council. He declined to name the source.

Nagle linked the hurtful language to the high number of suicides in the city.

“That web page is not about Syracuse citizens, it is about hatred. When people think the solution is to put a gun to their head or take pills, we have work to do,” Nagle said. “We can sit out there and smirk and sit on our hands and think we’re not part of the problem, but you are part of the problem if you’re not part of the solution. I ask people to make their opposition known.”

Nagle also expressed her regret that ongoing battles between her and some members of the council have impacted city staff.

“I’m sorry that the staff are casualties of the discontent on the council,” she added.

Nagle has often used the mayor’s comment section at the end of meetings to “tell it as I see it.”

She criticized a prayer by Shingleton earlier this year for a “veiled threat” and has often suggested some council members congregate in illegal meetings in the parking lot after meetings. Some members of the council have not reacted well to public chastisement and discord between the mayor and council members has grown with each issue.

Syracuse has had 15 unattended deaths since Jan. 1, with six confirmed as suicide. The city usually sees eight to 10 unattended deaths, with about half that number determined to be suicides.

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