South Bend City Clerk Democratic candidates face off in debate

NOW: South Bend City Clerk Democratic candidates face off in debate

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- Three democratic candidates for south bend city clerk faced off in a debate Tuesday at Indiana University South Bend (IUSB). The recent drama between the clerk’s office and other areas of city government was a focus of the debate. 

Incumbent Dawn Jones used her time to talk about her experience as the current city clerk and offered ways she hopes to further educate the public on local government. 

“This past year we processed 190 bills. So that’s a lot for a staff of 3. My staff has been reduced considerably,” Jones said. “So the thing I would do is build my staff, and I'm confident that in doing that, we will be more efficient than we already are.” 

Bianca Tirado, a consultant who worked with Ms. Jones, and who was hired by the South Bend common council, says she will repair communications and relationships between the clerk's office and the common council. 

“I come into this race with the endorsement of Mayor James Mueller, and the majority support of the South Bend common council,” Tirado said. “I know how to work with the common council and the mayor’s administration to ensure that all residents get their needs met.” 

Jason Banicki says he is a new face for those that are tired of current leadership and promises to update all technology in the office to improve efficiency.    

“Training people in the clerk’s office on modern technology, on modern processes, on how to use new technology to deliver results to taxpayers, would absolutely be part of my process to increase efficiency,” Banicki said.  

Recent drama was highlighted in Tuesday’s debate. 

(Debra & ray turner, debate attendees)It really did bring out some of the points that people are concerned about,” said debate attendee Debra Turner. “Some of the things that have been in the press, some of the things that have been discussed. So it did bring those things out front, and so you could actually hear their opinions and what was going on with those things. So it was very good.” 

“There’s been a lot of drama. All of the candidates mentioned the strained relationship between the council and the clerk’s office and the mayor and the clerk’s office,” said Dr. Elizabeth Benion, Professor of Political Science at IUSB. “And they have different interpretations about what that means and why it’s happening and what the path forward should be.” 

For example, the three candidates were asked to address a story ABC57 brought you last week, about a press release the clerk sent out naming a shooting victim before the police had formally released that information.  

Here’s what the candidates had to say: 

“Should they be sent out on behalf of a community member, then it’s more so a toy drive or something informative,” Tirado said. “In this instance, the name had not been publicly released, so it was not appropriate for that to have been released through the clerk’s office.” 

“Particularly when it comes to an event like that, you have to wait for the police to make that public announcement,” Banicki said. “You’re talking about somebody’s life, somebody’s son, somebody’s daughter. They should not find out through an accidental release through a public official.” 

“I do want to take the opportunity to offer my apologies to the chief. But I can say this: the name wasn’t just released when I released it. It was on Facebook,” Clerk Jones said. “I didn’t look at it as campaigning, and I'm sorry everybody else looked at it that way.” 

Whoever wins the May 2 primary election will face off against Republican Tina Wilson in November.  

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