UPDATE: Mayor reacts after feds say 'no' to investigating SBPD tapes
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- ABC 57 takes a closer look at the detailed exchange between Mayor Pete Buttigieg's office and the Department of Justice.
Plus, the mayor's office has finally issued a statement to ABC 57 concerning the response it received from the feds. The official statement we received from his chief of staff was brief and did not really shed light on the on-going controversy; a complaint the common council also has with the city.
Our first call was to the common council. There members said they still have not heard from the mayor's office.
With questions still unanswered, we decided to see if we could get a response. First, we called the mayor's chief of staff. No answer. Then, we tried the mayor's communications director, Debra Johnson.
Johnson emailed me the chief of staff's answer to our question: what's the mayor's reaction to contents of the letter and department's decision not to investigate?
In response, the mayor's chief of staff, Mike Schmuhl, "The city sent the tapes to the department of justice due to civil rights concerns and the department has stated there don't appear to be violations to investigate. Possible wiretap violations created by the existence of the tapes are a separate concern and that matter will be handled in a court of law."
Now, a closer look inside the correspondence between the U.S. Department of Justice and the City of South Bend.
In the letter, received by the city August 27th, the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division said it returned the tapes without listening to them because there was not enough evidence of a crime.
That conclusion was based on this letter from the city, which mentioned ABC 57's interview with former communications director, Karen DePaepe. The conversation with DePaepe revealed that the tapes, in the words of the city, "included racially charged and defamatory statements about former South Bend Police Chief Darryl Boykins, a black man."
The city goes on to point out that the tape scandal even attracted the attention of Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Push Coalition.
Perhaps what is most interesting is this statement that came at the end of the city's letter, "Your office alone, it would seem, has the power and ability to thoroughly investigate the existence of racial threats within the contents of the tapes."
But the Department of Justice said actually this is not the kind of case it handles, giving examples of what it does investigate, including excessive force by police officers and violent acts against reproductive health clinics.
The only way the common council can proceed is through circuit court, using the subpoena power they have already exercised. Council Attorney, E. Spencer Walton, who is now working pro bono after exceeding his budget, maintains that the city is stalling and that taking it to federal court will only delay a resolution and cost the city more money.