O'burg city manager files police complaint against former city councilor over text messages, no charges filed
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
OGDENSBURG -- City Manager Stephen Jellie has filed a police complaint regarding text messages sent to him by former Councilor David Price, but no charges were levied.
Jellie said that he believed the text messages Price sent him were threatening in nature, but police determined they did not rise to the level of harassment.The exchange is part of an ever-growing feud between a large number of citizens and the majority council, which has made deep cuts, changes to the city charter and offered harsh criticism of former councilors and administrators since being elected.
Price has been vocal in his opposition to decisions made by the majority of the sitting council. Most recently, criticism has centered around cuts to emergency services.
Jellie and Price have a past, having played on the same high school football team. Price said he was surprised when he was contacted by police, because he did not have any indication from Jellie that he had crossed a line. He said the two had been texting for months without issue.
Price recently shared some of the texts with the public on social media.
“This is going to go poorly. Mostly for you. Citizens will suffer, councilors will suffer, and you will suffer. You will make some money, before the lawsuits, but it won’t be worth it. It will be ugly, nasty and brutish, but the people will prevail. If I’m wrong, I will suffer little, but if I’m right, you and the four will suffer greatly. We will be executing our boycott soon, money in versus money out will dictate the future. We will not relent. It’s the fight you wanted, but not the fight you chose,” Price wrote in a message to the city manager.
Another text from Price reiterated that businesses would be boycotted.
“I warned you months ago. All five of you will lose. Your fear is palpable. All information will be disclosed. All avenues will be explored. We will attack all personal revenue streams to make sure we have been heard. This won’t end well, but we have been preparing for months. Not one head that is cut off will matter, ten will take its place. Your former teammates have started to speak out against you, and I haven’t even started,” he wrote.
Jellie, in texts to Price, said the city could not survive on its current path and that more cuts would be needed.
“We will have to cut further before this is over but we can’t cut anyone else until we break the sacred cow. I’ll take this fight and we will win,” Jellie said.
Mayor Jeffrey Skelly was critical of the texts and criticized former and sitting councilors via a letter sent to North Country This Week.
“It is sad to see former Ogdensburg City Council member David Price stoop to the level of sowing anger and hatred in the community by sending threatening texts to city officials over proposed budget cuts,” Skelly said.
“Mr. Price is part of a group of former City Council members who were voted out of office last year in overwhelming fashion. This “gang of disgruntled” also includes three current City Council members that remain on the board because they were not up for election a year ago in November.”
But Price said his actions hardly compared to those Skelly in the past.
“Mike Skelly called for the firing of City Manager Sarah Purdy, Recreation Director Matt Curatorlo and the Department of Public Works Director Scott Thornhill,” he said. “I didn’t ask for anybody’s job.”
Price also accused Skelly of making threats to past council and staff on social media, citing an August 2019 post from Skelly that included the movie poster from the Mel Gibson’s action movie ‘Edge of Darkness’ that accompanied the following text.
“When our city council goes into executive session and refuses to speak in defense of our city election following the city charter it makes me feel like going all Mel Gibson on them,” the post said.
Skelly said that while some are framing budget proposals by the majority council as reckless, the cuts are needed. He blamed the city’s fiscal problems on past councilors.
“The previous Ogdensburg City Council of Wayne Ashley, David Price, Jennifer Stevenson, Tim Davis, Dan Skamperle, Nichole Kennedy and Mike Powers were hand-in-hand when they signed 5, 6 and 7-year contracts with municipal departments like the fire department – when they knew the city was headed off a financial cliff. They also ballooned the city’s wastewater treatment project to create more costs than the city can absorb. They did so at a time when they should have been well aware that bankruptcy was looming,” he wrote.
He was also critical of Price’s threats to boycott businesses and defended the city’s actions
“The cuts we are proposing now will be difficult, but they are needed. All we are doing is trying to clean up the financial mess that Mr. Price and other former council members left for the taxpayers they were supposed to look out for,” Skelly said.