MERRILLVILLE – I hate to see anyone go to prison, including former Portage Mayor James Snyder, even though I’ve never really cared for the guy. Even though I have no love for Snyder, he does have a family and those are the people who will suffer the most when he is incarcerated.

And yes, he will go to jail. That’s what happens to mayors who violate the public trust. And, for all those who love attacking Democrats, it should be noted that Snyder is a Republican.

I first talked to Snyder in 2011 when he was making his bid for mayor against incumbent Democrat Olga Velazquez. Shortly after taking office, Velazquez had hired former FBI special agent Mark Becker as police chief. Becker had a reputation throughout Northwest Indiana as a bright, no-nonsense law enforcement agent. He had spent a good deal of time in Gary fighting gangs and drugs.

Becker performed well in Portage, but he and law enforcement became a key issue in the campaign between Velazquez and Snyder. Snyder leaned on scare tactics in an effort to turn the city against Velazquez. Toward the end of the campaign, Becker’s future came into question.

I asked Snyder if he would consider retaining Becker as police chief. After all, there was no one in the department with more expertise in law enforcement. Snyder hemmed and hawed and finally said he would grant Becker an interview. I didn’t believe Snyder at the time and he proved me right.

A couple weeks after the election, which Snyder won by fewer than 300 votes, the mayor-elect said he would not grant Becker an interview and that Becker would not continue as police chief.

Yeah, Snyder lied to me. But there is nothing illegal about an elected official lying to a newspaper man. No, it’s not illegal, but it says something about the ethics of the man. It’s too bad the people of Portage didn’t recognize that before electing Snyder mayor. 

Rich James has been writing about politics and government for 40 years. He is retired from the Post-Tribune, a newspaper born in Gary.