For weeks, Syracuse Mayor Jamie Nagle has been locked in a dispute with several City Council members over the hiring process in this Davis County community as they get ready to fill the position of police chief.
The battle — which centers on whether council members and Syracuse residents can have access to applicants’ résumés and how their requests for those documents under the Government Records Access Management Act (GRAMA) have been handled by the mayor and city staffers — has led to a delay in appointing a chief and an accusation by Nagle that a local group’s Facebook page is “spinning hatred.”
The elected officials got into a heated discussion on the résumé release issue at their Nov. 13 council meeting, which concluded with Nagle criticizing a posting on the Facebook page of a group called Syracuse Citizens, which has more than 600 members.
The posting linked to an interview that City Attorney Will Carlson did in 2009 with CNN about gay rights when he was manager of public policy for Equality Utah. The accompanying comment said, “Here is our Syracuse City Attorney, this is a perfect example of why we need to vet all applicants applying for city positions.”
Nagle contended that the comment, and other posts that followed, were an attack on Carlson for being gay and a form of bullying.
“He started here with people not wanting him here because of what they think of who he is,” she said tearfully. “It has no reflection on his work, it has no reflection on him as a human being and I am proud to work with you. Will, I apologize. Nobody should ever be made to feel less than what they are because of who they are.”
The mayor, who talked about Carlson’s sexual orientation with his permission, also said she doesn’t care what goes on in anyone’s bedroom “and I don’t care if the headlines tomorrow say I’m a godless unshaven woman who loves gays.”
The original post, by Planning Commissioner Gary Pratt, and its conversation thread have been removed. Pratt, who posted under his wife’s name, could not be reached for comment but said in subsequent posts that he was talking about Carlson’s legal skills and “his interpretation abilities.”
“Will has repeatedly misinterpreted code to the Planning Commission and City Council,” Pratt alleged in one comment.
He added that he has gay family members and “no one is more tolerant than I am in respect to how they want to live their lives.” And when he heard there were derogatory comments in the original thread, Pratt wrote, he returned to the site to delete them but the statements had already been removed.
“Those posts did not represent my point of view and my feelings toward Will Carlson,” he said.
Braxton Schenk, another Syracuse planning commissioner, said Carlson was unqualified for his job because of a lack of municipal experience.
“The only experience he has is being an activist for social issues,“ Schenk told The Tribune. “It is not, and never was, a gay issue.”
Carlson worked as a Salt Lake City prosecutor from 2009 until January, when he became Syracuse City Attorney on a unanimous vote by the council.
Carlson said one commenter claimed he has an agenda.
“I don’t hide who I am but at the same time, it doesn’t have anything to do with my job,” he said.
The dispute stems from the search to find a replacement for Chief Brian Wallace, who is retiring Dec. 24. Under city regulations, the chief is appointed by the mayor with the advice and consent of the council.
Nagle appointed a committee, including council members Craig Johnson and Douglas Peterson, to review applications and interview finalists. The committee members selected as their candidate Layton Police Lt. Garrett Atkin, and a vote on his appointment was put on the Nov. 13 agenda.
The other three council members — Brian Duncan, Karianne Lisonbee and Larry Shingleton — wanted to review all the résumés, but City Recorder Cassie Brown said they were not public records and turned down the requests.
Lisonbee appealed the denial of her GRAMA request to Nagle, who granted the trio access to the résumés on the day of the council meeting — which was too late for a thorough review, according to the councilwoman.
A GRAMA request for all résumés filed by Syracuse resident Troy Shingleton, who is Larry Shingleton’s son, also was denied initially. Shingleton eventually was given Atkin’s application and two other applications that Carlson said could be released.
The GRAMA fight sparked conversation on the Syracuse Citizens’ Facebook page. Nagle told The Tribune that some of the comments relating to Carlson were “venomous,” and that Brown also was unfairly criticized.
The council voted 3-2 last week to delay taking action on Atkin’s appointment.
A special council meeting to vote on the appointment has been scheduled for Tuesday.
Atkin, who was at the meeting, said he did not take the dispute personally.
Nagle made her remarks about the Facebook posting in the time allotted at the end of the meeting for reports from the elected officials. She talked about the higher than usual number of suicides in Syracuse recently and said she believes some of the people who killed themselves had been bullied.
“That Web page was not about Syracuse citizens, it’s about spinning hatred,” Nagle said. She urged anyone who is affiliated with the group to post “that you’re not going to be a part of the hate.”
The Syracuse City Council has scheduled a special meeting on Tuesday to vote on appointing a police chief. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Syracuse Municipal Building, 1979 W. 1900 South.