The controversy that began with the resignation and demotion of former South Bend Police Chief Darryl Boykins continues to grow. Now a wrongful termination lawsuit may be in the works.
Friday afternoon, Mayor Buttigieg sent a statement to news media (see related content to the left) insisting the police department is in compliance with the Federal Wiretap Act and said he considers the matter closed.
He went on to say he cannot make more comments about the investigation, pending more potential legal action.
“My focus now is to heal the divisions in the department and the community that this matter has caused,” he wrote.
Also Friday, the city answered a request WSBT filed Thursday asking for more information about Boykins’ demotion, the firing of Communications Director Karen DePaepe and requests for copies of the recorded conversations that sparked the FBI investigation.
When WSBT asked DePaepe why she lost her job, she responded, “I have no clue.”
She’s still searching for answers into why the city fired her Tuesday after 25 years of service as a dispatcher and eventually a supervisor.
Now her attorney says there’s a good chance they'll move forward with a wrongful termination lawsuit.
“She has not done anything wrong, she's not looked at in the federal investigation as anything but a witness,” said her attorney, Scott Duerring. “And then to have the circumstances where she was terminated without warning, without notice, and then the threats and implied threats that were communicated to her by the city administration at the time of her termination, it's clear to me. They want her to stay quiet and they want it to go away.”
But in an eight page response to WSBT’s Public Access Records Request, the city said the only records in existance that are available to the public for Boykins' demotion are three press releases issued by Mayor Buttigieg on March 29, 30 and 31. None of those releases detail the reason for the demotion.
The response also included an Employee Disciplinary Notice for DePaepe. It shows the city fired her Tuesday for “conduct unbecoming a city employee,” but seven lines of that document were redacted... including the specific details and circumstances into why she was terminated.
Regarding WSBT’s request for recorded conversations, Interim City Attorney Aladean DeRose wrote “any recordings or documents related to the federal investigation are in the possession of the federal authorities" and went on to say "the Federal Wiretap and Electronic Eavesdropping statute prohibits disclosure of wiretapped communications."
The city's legal department never denied that it has the recordings or copies of them.
A source close to the investigation told WSBT a grand jury filed a subpoena January 20, demanding the recordings not be tampered with or destroyed. Grand jury proceedings are secret and the documents are not available to the public.