City settles lawsuit with former communications director

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The former South Bend Police Department Communications Director has settled her lawsuit against the city.

Karen DePaepe sued in May 2013 for an alleged violation of the civil rights act and included claims for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress for her firing in April 2012.

Both DePaepe and the city agreed to settle the lawsuit without either side admitting any wrongdoing.

The city agreed to pay DePaepe $235,000.

Of those funds, $10,000 represents lost wages and benefits.

Another $10,000 is to settle DePaepe's claim for indemnification for attorney's fees and litigation costs in the consolidated lawsuit over the wiretaps.

The final $215,000 is to settle the defamation and intentional infliction and emotional distress claims.

It was the third lawsuit the city has settled and there is just one more lawsuit pending related to the tape scandal.

"It moves us that much closer to closure on a very difficult issue that's affected our city for too long," said South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

DePaepe agreed to not talk about the tape scandal as part of the settlement.

"I think it's one less distraction for the city, and one less weight holding us back from what we're doing," said Buttigieg.

"This was a unique set of circumstances in all respects, and it's good to have it behind us," said Cristal Brisco, attorney for the city.

The pending lawsuit questions whether or not the recordings can legally be played. They allegedly contain racially insensitive and disparaging remarks.

A federal judge is still considering the issue.

City leaders say it could take months or years to get an answer.

"We will listen and act on those tapes only if we learn there is a lawful way to do so," said Buttigieg.

We asked if the settlement set a precedent for how the city will deal with future lawsuits. Buttigieg said this lawsuit was unique.

"Precedent has to do with like cases coming along, and I don't think we'll ever see another case quite like this," said Buttigieg.

DePaepe's attorney said the settlement was fair.

"It enables my client to move on with her life. This has been a significant event in her life, and not a very pleasant one. So, this is one of those things that enables her to put closure on it," said attorney Scott Duerring.

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