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It all started with poles in front yard

Michael Snorek was tired of trucks using his front yard to make wide turns, so he and his wife planted some poles in the ground to keep them off.

Trouble is, those poles were on the city right of way. A complaint drew the code enforcement officer to his house Friday, and Snorek was told to move them.

Some foul, threatening language later and Snorek, 43, and the city's Public Works director, Rocky Schmidt, 47, are now part of a he-said/he-said that the State Attorney's Office is now looking over.

The Port Richey Police report on the incident lists Schmidt as the victim, and Snorek as the suspect. But according to the reports and witnesses, prosecutors will have to sort out who said what to whom.

On Nov. 12, a complaint came into City Hall about the poles in the city's right of way. A day later, Lou Barba, the city's code enforcement officer, went to Snorek's house at 7813 Leo Kidd Ave. to ask him to move them.

Snorek said Tuesday that he explained to Barba why they were there _ he worried that the trucks turning through his yard might hit one of his cars _ but agreed to remove them.

Snorek said he pulled them from the ground, but left them lying there because he had to go to a service call for his boat repair business. On Friday, Barba was back, this time with Schmidt, to ask Snorek to take the poles out of the city right of way.

According to Snorek, he was frustrated by the trucks, and by the city wanting him to move the poles, and he and Barba went back and forth. Eventually, Snorek said he relented and threw one pole into his yard and dragged the other against a tree.

Frustrated, he turned to walk into his house. Snorek said he heard Barba say "thanks" for removing the poles, and he thought Barba's remark was sarcastic.

"F--- you," Snorek said to Barba.

Agreement over what happened next ended there.

According to Snorek, Schmidt then asked Snorek what he said.

Snorek repeated it.

Versions vary, but Snorek says Schmidt then said "come over here and say that. I will kick your a--."

Barba and Schmidt both told Port Richey Police that Snorek picked up a 4-by-4 board and walked toward Schmidt. Schmidt said he felt threatened by Snorek.

Snorek denies ever touching the board during the squabble.

Versions again vary, but Barba, in his written statement to police, wrote that Schmidt then said "drop the wood or I will kick your f------ a--." Schmidt's statement is slightly different, and Snorek's version doesn't include a board.

According to Snorek, Schmidt continued to swear until Snorek went inside his house. There, Snorek's wife, Margie, called the police.

Snorek said before the police arrived, he went back outside. He said he spoke again to Schmidt and Barba about the poles and why he was frustrated, and everyone was calm.

When police asked him about the board _ there was a 4-by-4 board in his yard that he used for his business _ Snorek said he was shocked.

"I never touched it," Snorek said. "That isn't the way it happened."

Schmidt could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

City Manager Vince Lupo said he was aware of the incident but was waiting for the police investigation to be done before taking any action.

"I believe in those two employees," he said. "I have to wait to see what the police say. They aren't violent individuals. I don't see them getting this out of line."

Lupo said his philosophy for city workers was that they are to respect and serve the public.

"I do not tolerate disrespect of our citizens," he said. "But on the other hand, I don't tolerate abuse of our employees."

Snorek admits he lost his cool first, but he didn't expect what happened next.

"I was probably out of line to have talked like that to begin with," he said. "It's not the way I should have handled everything either."

_ Matthew Waite covers Port Richey city government. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is waitesptimes.com.

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