City withholds records amid investigation into South Bend Fire Department
It's been two weeks since ABC57 broke the story of Indiana State Police investigating a hidden camera found inside the women’s locker room of South Bend Fire Department headquarters.
Thursday, the city rejected a public records request from ABC57 asking for texts and emails that could shine some light on what, if anything, is being done to make the South Bend Fire Department a safe place for women to work.
Last Monday, South Bend Mayor James Mueller sent ABC57 a statement:
“I'm confident that Chief Buchanon and his leadership team will make the changes necessary to ensure a safe, inclusive and harassment-free workplace for our fire service. A number of measures are already underway, including improved security at our fire stations, and we will continue to stand with our women firefighters, who have our full support.”
ABC57 asked what those safety measures are. The city wouldn’t say.
Over calls, texts, and emails, ABC57 sent roughly a dozen requests to interview Mayor Mueller or Fire Chief Carl Buchanon about what's being done to protect our first responders.
The city has denied or ignored every invitation to talk.
Over these last two weeks, Mayor Mueller has made time for interviews about a program to help people pay for their own solar-powered lamp post. Chief Buchanon aproned-up for a grilling contest with the St. Joseph County Sheriff, Tuesday.
Now, with the mayor and chief not wanting to talk about the safety of it's firefighters, the city has decided to keep public property from the public. ABC57 plans to contest the records denial with the Indiana Public Access Counselor.
Indiana State Police said it’s still actively investigating the hidden camera found spying on the women of SBFD. ISP said it hasn’t learned of any new safety measures at the South Bend Fire Department; saying that would be an internal effort at the department.
This comes a few months after 12 women with SBFD came forward to outline allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination and a fire captain allegedly verbally abusing and even hitting one woman; in a letter to Chief Buchanon.