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PORTAGE — A local Applebee's Grill + Bar restaurant has sparked controversy by covering a portion of an inside mural that contains the image of former Mayor James Snyder, who is awaiting sentencing following his federal public corruption conviction.

An American flag and a POW/MIA flag were moved to cover the image of not just Snyder, but also current Police Chief Troy Williams and current and retired members of the police department.

The restaurant posted a printed explanation next to the flags that says in part, "There is a lot of controversy with this mural still being on this wall."

The restaurant explains that Snyder is no longer mayor and some customers do not wish to see his picture on the wall. Other customers are angry because images of police officers were covered along with Snyder.

"We have not intended to show disrespect to our law enforcement officers," the sign reads. "Until we can remove the mural, we will not promote Mr. Snyder in the mural."

A manager at the restaurant late Sunday morning declined comment and referred all questions to the corporate office. The contact person was not immediately available for comment.

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When contacted Sunday for comment, Williams said, "I suppose I don’t really care what they do with their own building, but a phone call from management probably would have been appropriate."

"The original photo is (Lt.) Ross Haynes, myself, Snyder, (Lt.) Joe Mokol and retired assistant chief Bill Mesich," Williams said. "In my opinion I believe it’s a bit tacky to cover them all up; none of the officers in the photo have done anything wrong. So Applebee’s has now unnecessarily made it seem like its local officers are somehow guilty of something."

Snyder declined to comment Sunday on the mural controversy, replying instead with an email that included two attached documents from his federal case and the short message: "You must be bored. Have a nice Memorial Day Weekend."

Snyder was convicted of two charges Feb. 14 following a 19-day trial. He was convicted on one court of bribery for accepting $13,000 from the former owners of Great Lakes Peterbilt in Portage in exchange for steering more than $1 million in contracts for garbage trucks toward the company.

He also was found guilty of one count of federal tax obstruction. The two counts carry a total of up to 13 years in prison. Snyder was acquitted on one count of bribery in an alleged pay-for-tow scheme.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 24.

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.