Portage Mayor James Snyder arrives for his public corruption trial

The trial of Portage Mayor James Snyder, center right, continues this week in U.S. District Court in Hammond. Here, Snyder arrives with his defense team on the first day of the trial on Monday, Jan. 14.

HAMMOND — Dealing with towing companies wasn't one of his priorities when Troy Williams became Portage's police chief in 2012, Williams told jurors Thursday morning.

Williams said dealing with tow companies was "no big deal," so he left it to others in his administration.

Williams testified Thursday morning in Portage Mayor James Snyder's public corruption trial. Snyder is facing two bribery counts and one tax obstruction charge. The trial is in its 14th day.

Snyder has been charged with accepting a $12,000 bribe from John Cortina for placing Cortina and his towing partner, Samson Towing, on the city's list. Samson was placed on the list less than a month after Waffco was removed. Cortina had partnered with Ambassador prior to Samson.

Cortina, Snyder's former co-defendant, pleaded guilty last month to paying Snyder the bribe.

Williams said he believed Waffco Towing had a storage yard in the city, on Old Porter Road, when he first became chief. It wasn't until January 2016, when a fellow city employee was arrested for drunken driving and Snyder and former Director of Administration Joe Calhoun went to retrieve that employee's car, that he learned Waffco had closed that lot.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson questioned Williams about why he gave Ambassador four to five chances to correct issues before removing them from the city's tow list, while not calling Waffco to advise them of the issue before a letter was sent terminating the tow company. Benson also questioned Williams about the city's tow agreement not requiring a storage lot within city limits.

Waffco owner Kevin Farthing testified earlier he had an indoor storage yard on U.S. 6, which opened in 2015.

Williams said he learned of the U.S. 6 lot and went by it several times but believed it was closed. He also testified it did not have an outdoor secure lot, and the building appeared too small to store a sufficient number of vehicles.

Williams told jurors while it wasn't in the written agreement, the expectation of having a lot in Portage was discussed with a Waffco representative and other tow company owners in January 2016.

Williams said the decision to remove Waffco from the list was made by himself, Calhoun and Snyder.

The defense played an audiotape of an Aug. 9, 2016, meeting between Williams and Samson owner, Scott Jurgensen, who worked as an undercover agent for the FBI.

In the tape, Williams can be heard telling Jurgensen Waffco was removed because of a lack of a yard in the city.

In addition to Williams, Snyder's campaign treasurer Kenard Taylor told jurors $10,000 of the $12,000 Snyder received from Cortina was considered a loan and listed as such on campaign finance documents.

Assistant Street Department Superintendent Randy Reeder took the stand near the end of the day and is expected to continue testifying Friday.


Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.