Mayor Buttigieg: Executive session productive; Council members disagree

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – With six notifications of tort claims in the last two weeks, Mayor Buttigieg met with the Common Council in an executive session Tuesday night; Wednesday he said, the meeting was productive, but some council members did not see it that way.

The mayor was unable to disclose exactly what was discussed, but he did say he was pleased to have had the meeting. “It’s really important to communicate with other elected officials and that’s what the session was all about,” said Buttigieg.

However the effectiveness of that communication has been called into question, with one council member going so far as to wonder if the mayor attended the same meeting they did.

When we caught up with Mayor Buttigieg Wednesday, he was in the midst of his busy schedule; he was walking back to his office after attending a fundraiser where he competed in a diaper changing competition.

He graciously agreed to answer a few quick questions on the street corner.

After asking about how he felt the executive session went, we asked about how he was handling the civil suits looming over the city.

He expressed confidence in the City’s Legal Department.  “I know that they are going to do a good job working through this,” said Buttigieg.

One of the attorneys for the five victims of the alleged wiretapping of a telephone line at the police department, Daniel Pfeifer has said, the city has practically admitted that wiretapping has occurred.

He also feels, the mayor is honorable enough to admit the truth; but when asked the straightforward question of whether wiretapping did happen, Buttigieg was evasive with his answer.

“I can say that there was practice and decision made that raised concerns, and I acted based on the concerns that I had; and now we are where we are,” said Buttigieg.

For those following along, the explanations for why Boykins and DePaepe were removed from their positions have been: as a result of a federal investigation; they were suspected of felony violations of the Wiretap Act; because Federal Authorities wanted that to happen; the mayor was under the impression the U.S. Attorney’s Office wanted that to happen; Buttigieg did it to prevent them from being charged with a crime; if an administrator with the city causes a federal investigation they can’t keep their job; and finally, because Buttigieg was concerned about practices and decisions that themselves raised concerns.

The only one left that is expected to file a civil suit is Karen DePaepe, though according to Pfeifer anyone who called Young’s phone line while it was being recorded could also find an attorney and sue the city.

With the mix-up of the recorded lines going undetected for about a year, that could be a lot of phone calls.

One of the few ways out of this mess for the city, ironically, is to argue that Amati versus Woodstock applies; something the mayor has already said on record that he was advised by his commissioned special council Rich Hill and Interim City Attorney Aladean DeRose, it did not.

When asked again this week if it was even remotely possible that Hill and DeRose could have been mistaken, or if they could have misinterpreted the case law, Buttigieg held steadfast to his previous comments.

Successfully arguing that could shut down civil suits from anyone upset about calling the phone line and being recorded; as it would mean the department did not wiretap the line.

But successfully arguing that could have the reverse effect on potential lawsuits from Boykins and DePaepe, as it would prove they did nothing illegal.

However, in Boykins situation, Buttigieg could still rely on the defense of he serves at the pleasure of the mayor. Which could be why Boykins attorney Thomas Dixon has also laid ground work within his notice of tort claim; showing a pattern of behavior on the mayor’s behalf, that seemingly calls into question Buttigieg’s motivation for the removal, beyond his ability to do so.

As for DePaepe, there is a variety of paths her attorney could take, according to her attorney. Since that notice of tort claim has yet to be filed we will have to wait and see how they plan to approach this situation.

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