MERRILLVILLE – I’ve never had any great love for Portage Mayor James Snyder. He didn’t level with me when he first ran for mayor against incumbent Olga Velasquez.

Snyder won, in part because of the misinformation he spread about the police department, leading some to fear for their lives. During the campaign, Snyder said he would consider keeping police Chief Mark Becker and would give him an interview. He never did. Becker was a retired FBI agent when hired by Velasquez. He was about the best any city could hire as a police chief.
    
Portage hired Becker after Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson refused to do so. That probably is the biggest mistake she has made since becoming mayor. Gary’s crime problem is legendary. Becker knew Gary better than any because of his experience heading the Gary Response Investigative Team while still with the FBI. Freeman-Wilson said her police chief had to be a Gary resident. Becker was not. Since her refusal to hire Becker, Gary has gone through a host of police chiefs.
    
Back to Snyder, who is under federal indictment for fraud. Now, I have to defend Snyder. The City Council, which is Democratic, wants Snyder, who is Republican, to resign from office because of the pall hanging over the city because of the federal indictment. Snyder is refusing, and I don’t blame him for not stepping down. While the U.S. attorney’s office has an excellent conviction record – largely because it doesn’t  indict iffy cases – they don’t win them all.
    
While the feds think Snyder is guilty, the mayor thinks he is innocent. Besides, whatever happened to that innocent until proven guilty thing? So, he ought to stay.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. He is a columnist for The Times of Northwest Indiana.