Pete Buttigieg at the South Bend Peace Walk on June 29, 2019, shortly after the fatal police shooting of a black suspect.

 

(Image: Photo by Scott Olson / Getty Images.)

Documents: Police Used Buttigieg Donors to Get Him to Fire Black Chief

Legal documents related to Pete Buttigieg’s ousting of South Bend’s first black police chief describe a plan by white police officers in 2011 to use Buttigieg’s campaign donors to get him to remove the chief, Darryl Boykins, once Buttigieg became mayor.

“It is going to be a fun time when all white people are in charge,” one officer is quoted as saying in the documents, which describe secret police recordings. The previously undisclosed documents shed new light on the most controversial chapter of Buttigieg’s South Bend political career.

The documents describe a plan to use two Buttigieg donors — including his campaign chairman — to lobby Buttigieg on personnel changes at the South Bend Police Department (SBPD). Both donors deny having such discussions with Buttigieg.

Buttigieg campaign National Press Secretary Chris Meagher asked to see the documents, saying, “You're more than willing to report rumors you are unable to prove, so it'd be nice to see some of this,” but provided no further comment.

The secret recordings of South Bend police phone lines have been a source of intrigue and controversy since their existence was revealed in March 2012, at the dawn of Buttigieg’s mayoralty. Speculation about the recordings and Buttigieg’s refusal to release them has dogged him into his presidential campaign, while their contents have remained largely a mystery.

Buttigieg has said as recently as this year that he wants to know what was said on the recordings, but that he is not sure he can legally even ask the city employee who listened to them to describe what she heard. But the documents show that Buttigieg’s lawyers secretly did just that in 2013.

Lawyers for both Boykins and for Karen DePaepe, the police employee who heard the recordings and was fired for her role in the scandal, would not comment on the content of the documents. Both, however, confirmed to The Young Turks that the city has had a Jan. 4, 2012, Officer’s Report filed by DePaepe that details what she heard, and her written responses to city attorneys who asked her in 2013 what she heard.

The responses the city got include comprehensive, detailed accounts of what is said on the recordings, describing a plan that unfolded over the course of Buttigieg’s 2011 mayoral campaign. Although their accuracy can not be confirmed without listening to the recordings, the documents’ authenticity was confirmed by sources familiar with the matter. (In response to a public-records request, city officials confirmed possession of the Officer’s Report and released a redacted version).

The documents say that, in February 2011, two white police officers were heard discussing a campaign to get rid of Boykins, with Buttigieg donors acting as go-betweens. In April, the officers say they believe Buttigieg is unaware of the plan, and that they expect the “little fucking squirt,” as one calls him, to win the mayoral nomination. After he does win, a third officer in June reports hearing directly from Buttigieg that “Boykins is done.”

The documents indicate that current SBPD Chief Scott Ruszkowski and the current county prosecutor, Ken Cotter, suggested to Buttigieg replacements for Boykins. The documents don’t say whether either man knew about the plan.

Some of the officers involved — from both the SBPD and the county homicide unit (made up of police from South Bend and its suburbs) — allegedly discussed Boykins in racist terms, using ebonics in reference to him and other black people. Two black police officers are named as either a target for removal or the subject of racist rhetoric.

At some point in January 2012, his first month in office, Buttigieg learned that SBPD police had secretly been recorded by the department and that the FBI was investigating for potential violations of federal wiretapping laws. Two months later, Buttigieg told Boykins to resign. After black South Bend leaders sided with Boykins, Boykins rescinded his resignation. On March 30, in the face of the black community’s outrage, Buttigieg instead demoted Boykins from his position as chief — allegedly for his handling of the recordings.

Less than two weeks later, April 10, 2011, Buttigieg fired DePaepe, the SBPD director of communications who discovered the calls, reported them to Boykins, and then transferred excerpts to five cassette tapes. DePaepe went public almost immediately, reportedly suggesting that the tapes revealed possible police wrongdoing, including racist rhetoric.

It was DePaepe who first suggested that the tapes for which Buttigieg demoted Boykins might reveal a plan to accomplish exactly that.

In her 2012 wrongful-termination suit, DePaepe refers to a plan to get Buttigieg to oust Boykins — but gives no details. Since settling their suits against the city, and facing possible lawsuits themselves, DePaepe and Boykins have refused to speak publicly about the recordings.

For seven years now, the battle over the tapes has divided and defined South Bend. Buttigieg’s refusal to release them, claiming legal restraints, has cemented them as a subtext of virtually any discussion about the city’s police, its black community, or its power structure.

The following account of what was said on the recordings is drawn from documents including internal SBPD reports filed in January 2012 and DePaepe’s responses to the city’s December 2013 interrogatories.

The story told by the documents includes specific details and allegations regarding multiple individuals, some of whom have never been publicly tied to the recordings. Unless otherwise noted, those named in this account declined to comment or could not be reached.

Fixing a Ticket

It all began with an alarm from the SBPD’s Dynamics Instruments Reliant Recording System.

The system was supposed to back up digital audio recordings of SBPD phone lines automatically. When the system froze, DePaepe began checking the recordings. On February 4, 2011, noticing that the voice on one call didn’t match the officer assigned to that line, DePaepe listened to more calls, to determine whether the recording system had malfunctioned.

DePaepe didn’t realize it, but Captain Brian Young had gotten a new phone line from another officer who had just been promoted. And Young didn’t know that he had just inherited a phone line that was being automatically recorded. (In the Jan. 2012 Officer’s Report, DePaepe writes that a previous chief ordered numerous lines be recorded to capture calls alleging officer misconduct.)

Over the next several months, the recordings, according to the documents, tell a story involving some of the most powerful players in South Bend politics. But the trail started with a single ticket for a seat-belt violation: A ticket that Captain Young tried to fix.

The ticket had been issued in neighboring Mishawaka to the wife of an SBPD SWAT team member, and Young had emailed county prosecutor Eric Tamashasky in December 2010 to make it go away.

Capt. Young tells Tamashasky the ticket was never taken care of and her license was suspended, which Tamashasky says he will also fix. DePaepe gave her account of what happened next in her interrogatory responses.

“Young then asked what would happen if [Indiana State Police] stops the officer’s wife and arrests her for driving on a suspended license, to which Tamashesky [sic] replied 'we’ll fix that too'. Both Tamaskesy and Young then laughed about it.”

When DePaepe listened to more calls to find out what happened with the ticket, she stumbled onto something much bigger. This time, it was a conversation between Young and then-Lt. Dave Wells, of the county homicide unit, that began with a black street gang but led to the SBPD’s black chief. According to DePaepe:

“They were discussing problems with a local gang known as the Cashout boys when Lt. Wells started speaking in what is termed as ebonics, when a person mocks or mimics the way a black person speaks. Lt. Wells in ebonics stated to the effect ‘ain’t nothin gonna get done with the Cashout boys cuz Boykins, he take care of his home boys.’…

“Both Wells and Young began to ridicule Boykins and mock him, when Wells stated that Corbett had a plan to get rid of him.”

Screengrab of DePaepe’s responses to South Bend city attorneys.

“Corbett” was then-Commander Tim Corbett, Wells’ boss, who ran the county homicide unit. An SBPD veteran, Corbett was already a known and controversial figure in South Bend.

Jack Colwell, a long-time South Bend reporter and columnist who’s now a distinguished visiting journalist at Notre Dame, describes Corbett as, “Kind of a Harry Bosch sort of police character, if you know what I mean. He gets his man. He solves the crimes. The results are great, but the way he gets those results are not always by the book.”

Corbett’s nickname, reportedly, was “Teflon Tim.” In an interview last year, Corbett said, “I know a lot of things. There’s a lot of people out there would be embarrassed by what I know.”

Asked by ABC57 reporter Clifton French whether he and Young ever used racist terms, Corbett said, “There’s nothing on these tapes.”

Another aspect of Corbett’s reputation is only whispered about. As TYT previously reported, some people on both sides of the law knew Corbett to use racist rhetoric on the job, including the n-word. Corbett’s lawyer, Dan Pfeifer, has denied those claims.

In 2011, Corbett was perhaps best known for a favor he did back in 2006. Bob Urbanski, a wealthy businessman and South Bend power player, had been at an impasse in his dispute with a local contractor. Allegedly, even threatening to have the contractor arrested — because Urbanski had “friends in the prosecutor’s office” — didn’t work.

So Urbanski called a friend — a fellow board member at the failed Sobieski Bank — who worked in the St. Joseph County prosecutor’s office, which has oversight over the homicide unit.

Urbanski’s friend suggested he ask Corbett for help, which is how Corbett ended up on July 13, 2006, in front of the contractor, with his shield and his gun, suggesting that the contractor ought to give Urbanski what he wanted.

The plan didn’t work out: The contractor raised a stink, costing Corbett a one-day suspension, a lawsuit, and plenty of headlines.

Fast forward five years, and Corbett apparently had a new plan: A plan to create a leadership vacuum at the SBPD that would lead to promotions for him and a group of fellow officers that Wells, Corbett’s lieutenant, would later refer to as “the inner circle.” Only this time, Urbanski would be doing Corbett the favor.

The Plan

In early 2011, with Capt. Young apparently unaware of the plan, Lt. Wells reads him in on what Corbett has in mind.

“Young inquired what was the plan, and Wells stated it involved the ‘money people.’ Young asked Wells ‘What do you mean by money people. Wells stated ‘Hensley and Urbanski’, people that are putting money in Buttigieg’s campaign. Wells stated Corbett said they [are] planning to get rid of Boykins and that they had plans to make changes.”

Screengrab of DePaepe’s responses to South Bend city attorneys.

“Hensley” was Sam Hensley, city streets commissioner under then-Mayor Steve Luecke. Urbanski was the city contractor Corbett had gone to bat for in 2006. Phoned for comment, both Hensley and Urbanski denied knowing of such a plan.

Told about the police discussions in the documents, Henley said, “I don’t know where they got that idea, but that is absolutely false.”

Asked about conversations with Buttigieg about removing Boykins, Urbanski told TYT, “I’ve got no rec--knowledge of that.” In response to a followup question, Urbanski said, “Have a nice day,” and hung up.

How much Hensley and Urbanski gave Buttigieg compared to his other donors is impossible to confirm because the county, in accordance with state law, destroyed the 2011 campaign-finance records. Buttigieg has refused to say whether he still has his campaign’s originals. But some details are known.

Urbanski is a long-time political force in South Bend. As Colwell, the journalist, put it, “I think his connections always have been because he was willing to contribute to Democratic candidates.”

Buttigieg discusses Urbanski in his book, thanking him in the acknowledgments and naming him as a source of golden-hued reminiscences about South Bend’s glory days. When it comes to the donor of “some office space” for his 2011 mayoral campaign, however, Buttigieg refers only to an unnamed “booster.” That booster appears to have been Urbanski.

According to a South Bend Tribune report before Buttigieg’s first mayoral campaign disclosures were destroyed, Urbanski chaired Buttigieg’s 2011 campaign and was its biggest donor, giving $10,000 in 2010. The report also says Urbanski donated office space to the campaign.

No value is given for the office space, but according to 2011 first-quarter filings obtained by TYT, it was worth $1,850 per month and was donated by Urbanski’s company, Main Street Row. The value of that donation totaled $7,400 for the first four months of 2011, the filings indicate.

Hensley described himself as a modest donor, giving maybe one or two hundred dollars. The 2011 first-quarter filings show just a $50 donation from Hensley, and an in-kind donation valued at $44.30 connected to an event on March 25.

Asked whether the in-kind donation indicated his participation in a fundraiser for Buttigieg, Hensley said he “never had a fundraiser for him. Never.” A flyer from the campaign, however, shows Hensley and Urbanski co-hosting a $125-per-person fundraiser for Buttigieg at Urbanski’s home on April 13.

Screenshot of a marked-up 2011 Buttigieg campaign flyer.

Hensley confirmed his relationship with Urbanski, saying, “I know Bob and I like Bob,” but did not respond to an email providing him with a copy of the flyer. (The Buttigieg campaign was also provided with the flyer and did not dispute its authenticity.)

Asked whether he discussed SBPD personnel issues in 2011 with Corbett, Buttigieg, or anyone in their circle, Hensley said, “No.” As to his opinion of Boykins at the time, he said, “I didn’t know him that well.”

DePaepe writes that the police conversation she heard about Boykins convinced her that the animus expressed toward Boykins was racial. She cites the use of ebonics and the lack of substantive complaints about him, other than an unfounded implication he was helping a black gang.

“I believed that speaking in ebonics and eluding [sic] that the Chief of Police, because he is black, was covering for black gang members to be a racial slur. I believe this because they were talking in ebonics, and it made me believe they wanted to get rid of Boykins because he was black. No comments were made as to him not performing his duties, just that he protects gang members.”

Screengrab of DePaepe’s responses to South Bend city attorneys.

Although DePaepe alerted Boykins, he apparently gave her no guidance on how to proceed. DePaepe seems to have dropped the matter — until July 2011, when an unrelated public-records request by local media led the city’s own attorneys to ask DePaepe to hunt for relevant material on the SBPD’s recordings.

(It’s not clear whether Buttigieg was aware in early 2012 that his city attorneys not only knew about the taping system but had relied on it for years as standard practice. One document names Aladean Rose, the city’s top attorney during the tapes controversy, as one of many city attorneys who routinely asked DePaepe to check police recordings in relation to litigation or public-records requests.)

In this case, the July 2011 requests by two local reporters sought such specific records that DePaepe suspected an SBPD officer had leaked details of an investigation to the media. In addition to hunting down material requested by the reporters, DePaepe went looking for the leak. Along the way, she found new discussions about the secret plan, on calls dating back to April, heading into the mayoral primary.

The documents suggest the plan was well under way by April 5, 2011, one month before the primary. Wells and Young discuss “Corbett’s plan to get rid of Boykins.”

“Captain Young and Lt. Wells discuss their plans when Buttigieg is elected. They state Corbett advised Buttigieg that ‘Boykins is fucking worthless’. Young and Wells refer to Buttigieg as ‘that little fucking squirt.’”

Screengrab of DePaepe’s Jan. 4, 2012, Officer’s Report.

Despite the suggestion that Corbett spoke directly with Buttigieg, a later conversation alleges that Corbett used intermediaries — Urbanski and Hensley, specifically — to sway Buttigieg against Boykins. DePaepe notes in her response to the city that in the April 5 call, Young and Wells “[b]elieved Buttigieg to be unaware of their plan which was spurred by racism.” (It’s not clear whether the reference to racism came from the officers or represents commentary by DePaepe.)

Expanding The Plan

Later on April 5, Young and Wells discuss new details of the plan, expanding its scope beyond just getting rid of Boykins. Now the two are said to target other colleagues to “whack.”

“Lt. Wells and Capt. Young continue conversations regarding the plan to get rid of Boykins. I believe this conversation also discussed getting rid of Will Johnson a black investigator because Boykins put him there. I believe this conversation had to do with Wells and Young making a plan of who they wanted to ‘whack.’”

Screengrab of DePaepe’s responses to South Bend city attorneys.

Around this time, heading into the primary, a conversation took place involving an officer whose name would arise later in the recordings. This conversation is not in the documents and was not on the phone. It was at roll call, face to face with the rank and file.

An SBPD source, who was not privy to the contents of the police recordings, told TYT that they heard Young’s boss, Investigative Division Chief Steve Richmond (whom Boykins had promoted), and Capt. Bobby Hammer, who is not named in the documents, discussing the upcoming primary. They said, according to the source, that “soon there will be changes and we’ll introduce a new paradigm in our department.”

After Buttigieg’s primary victory, attention turns to who should replace Boykins. Richmond is in the mix as early as June 3. That’s also when Ruszkowski, the current chief, first gets mentioned — as meeting with Buttigieg to discuss who the next chief should be.

Ruszkowski isn’t angling for the job, however. A captain at the time, Ruszkowski is said to want his own boss, Uniform Division Chief Jeffrey Walters, to get Boykins’ job — which would make room for Ruszkowski to move up:

“Young and Wells discuss Ruszkowski meeting with Buttigieg to sway him away from Richmond, trying to promote Walters […]. Several phone calls were made to that fucking crew…people with the money.”

Screengrab of DePaepe’s Jan. 4, 2012, Officer’s Report.

It’s not clear whether the apparent discontent with Buttigieg’s donors stems from a battle over whether Boykins will go, or over who will replace him. Either way, Corbett is discussed as “putting pressure” on the Buttigieg donors.

“Lt. Wells stated that several phone calls were made to that ‘fucking crew…people with money. The call contained information that Corbett was putting pressure on the people with money people [sic] to put influence [on] Buttigieg to remove Boykins. I believe this may have been the conversation where Wells stated ‘Tim says it is going to be a fun time when all white people are in charge.’”

Screengrab of DePaepe’s responses to South Bend city attorneys.

Soon after, Buttigieg is said to be discussing with others who should replace Boykins. By June 16, Buttigieg is said to be hearing from Deputy Chief Prosecutor Cotter.

“Cotter talking to Buttigieg to push Steve Richmond.”

Screengrab of DePaepe’s Jan. 4, 2012, Officer’s Report.

By July 7, it’s Officer Jim Taylor — then part of Corbett’s homicide unit:

“Young/J.T. JT meeting with Buttigieg to discuss putting Richmond in as Chief.”

Screengrab of DePaepe’s Jan. 4, 2012, Officer’s Report.

But if some officers were lobbying Buttigieg or jockeying for position, not everyone in the city’s power structure appeared to have gotten the word. In theory, Mayor Luecke’s special assistant, Lynn Coleman, might have had some influence on SBPD personnel issues.

Although he was a top aide to Luecke, it was conceivable Coleman could stay on under Buttigieg. And Coleman had held a high-ranking position himself on the SBPD. He was also black.

Out of the Loop

There’s no indication anyone ever told Coleman or lobbied him about SBPD personnel issues. In fact, Coleman was so far out of the loop, in a June 3 call he’s described as telling Corbett that Boykins was safe.

“Corbett talked to Lynn Coleman, who did not think Boykins was going anywhere…Young states ‘God help us all.’”

Screengrab of DePaepe’s Jan. 4, 2012, Officer’s Report.

Coleman wasn’t alone in his assessment. Sources close to Boykins at the time tell TYT that Boykins did not think his job was in jeopardy — and no one had told him otherwise.

Like Boykins, Coleman didn’t last, either. In his eventual lawsuit against the city, Boykins cited Coleman as one of the three top-ranking black officials to be replaced by white appointees in Buttigieg’s first few months as mayor.

(The third black official to depart was Fire Chief Howard Buchanon. The 2011 pre-primary filings show that Buchanon’s replacement, Steve Cox, was a minor Buttigieg donor during that period, contributing $100.)

Over the summer of 2011, Boykins became an afterthought, an object of derision more than a target. On June 6,

“Wells described a meeting where Boykins attended with the MCHU [Metro County Homicide Unit] and that Corbett stated [Boykins] just said Duuuuuuh. Wells and Young both state Boykins is fucking worthless.”

Screengrab of DePaepe’s responses to South Bend city attorneys.

“Boykins is Done”

By June 27, Taylor apparently has discussed Boykins with Buttigieg and reported back.

“J.T. talked to Buttigieg stated Boykins is done.”

Screengrab of DePaepe’s Jan. 4, 2012, Officer’s Report.

One entry hints at the possibility that Urbanski’s influence could extend beyond getting rid of Boykins, and that Corbett was calling the shots. According to Wells, Urbanski asked Corbett what changes he thought needed to be made.

Corbett talks with Young on June 13, allegedly referring to black gang members as “little apes.” One document suggests Corbett may have hinted at falsifying evidence to get them.

An entry for June 16 notes “Racial comments” about Boykins’ Youth Academy.

In the June 27 call — when Buttigieg is quoted saying “Boykins is done” — Wells says that Corbett and Mike Grzegorek (who ultimately succeeded Corbett as chief of the county homicide unit) spoke with Richmond and “Richmond [is] going to break down the house.”

After Lt. Wells says he expects to get bars, indicating promotion to captain, “Young asks if they said anything about him…possibly going to be Chief of Detectives.”

Two things happened in July that only some of those in on the plan knew about. One was the emergence of tension in their ranks. “Young and Wells want Corbett to stay out of Robbery cases,” says an entry for a July 14 call.

The other development was that DePaepe apparently found a call suggesting that Young himself was the source of the leak that led to the public-records request prompting her to listen to his line. She writes that she heard on a second call from July 14 that, “Young disclosed an internal affairs investigation” to someone outside the department. “The information in this phone call was the exact information that was requested by the media…”

The following month, August 2011, DePaepe briefs Boykins on the details she has heard from April through July. As in February, there’s no indication that Boykins did anything in response, or broached the subject with Buttigieg.

Buttigieg in Charge

What happens next, behind the scenes, is a growing awareness in the SBPD that Young’s line was being recorded. According to another SBPD document obtained by TYT, at an Oct. 12 meeting on implementing a city-wide phone system, police officials and administrators reviewed the status of various police lines. This report, filed by Diana Scott of the Communications Dept., says,

“As we went thru the list of lines which were just phone numbers I was asked who the lines belonged to. […] I advised them this line belonged to Capt. Brian Young. I was immediately asked by Chief [Gary] Horvath and Capt. [Phil] Trent if Capt. Young was aware that his line was being recorded. I told them I had no idea, but that Chief Boykins was aware of which lines were being recorded […] Capt. Trent immediately left the meeting […] and went to Capt. Young’s office. […] When I left the meeting I was approached by Capt. Trent asking to get the recording of Capt. Young’s phone stopped ‘like yesterday’.”

With the approach of the new year and a new mayor, things begin to come to a head. Almost a year after first hearing about the recordings, Boykins tells DePaepe to make cassette tapes of the recordings. One source told TYT that Boykins at some point says he may need to speak to “the mayor” about them, but it was not clear whether he meant Luecke, or Mayor-elect Buttigieg.

Then Buttigieg takes over. Here’s how Buttigieg, in his book this year, describes the police department he inherited:

“…it was clear by the time I first took office that the department needed attention. Rumors swirled of favoritism, opportunism, and cliquishness within the police force. There was little evidence of a real promotion system or documented officer evaluations, which meant that career advancement hadn’t fully outgrown the sixties-era norm in which your standing depended on popularity and political relationships. The place would need an overhaul, sooner or later.”

Buttigieg writes that after winning the election he was unsure whether to keep Boykins. “So, after interviewing him and two competitors for the job, I decided that I would reappoint him…”

Exactly when in the transition this happened, Buttigieg does not say. He also does not mention that despite his concerns about cliquishness and political relationships, the two unnamed competitors he interviewed to run the SBPD were Richmond and Corbett.

It’s also not clear whether Buttigieg saw the reappointment of Boykins as permanent. It’s not uncommon for mayors to keep some officeholders briefly as placeholders. And there’s no evidence Buttigieg ever told Boykins he decided to reappoint him. Just one page later in the section of his book about the tapes, Buttigieg himself suggests Boykins was not a shoo-in, writing that he was only “leaning toward” keeping Boykins.

On Jan. 4, 2012, DePaepe submitted her Officer’s Report to Boykins, detailing some of the tapes’ contents, including him being called worthless. According to the lawsuit filed by Corbett, Young, Wells, and Richmond, Boykins on Jan. 6 “berated Richmond for…seeking his job and being a ‘back stabber.’”

Boykins also revealed the existence of the recordings, the suit says. The officers complained to the U.S. Attorney’s office on Jan. 19, 2012, alleging illegal wiretapping.

Buttigieg learned of the investigation some time that month. Discussing it later, Buttigieg said that DePaepe and Boykins were both in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors, for potential violation of federal wiretapping laws.

According to DePaepe’s interrogatory, however, she is asked to listen to Young’s calls again in February 2012 — this time by the same U.S attorney’s office that Buttigieg would later suggest considered her a suspect at the time. (Her claim is reminiscent of one by Boykins’ lawyer, Tom Dixon, who has disputed Buttigieg’s accusation that Boykins was a “subject” or “target” of investigators by pointing out that prosecutors asked Boykins himself to hold on to the tapes during the investigation.)

Despite criticism that he brought in too many young faces to run the city, when it came to the SBPD, Buttigieg’s pattern went the other way. He not only interviewed insiders for the chief’s job, but when it came to the tapes, the two men Buttigieg tasked to take point were two ultimate insiders: his own chief of staff, veteran South Bend politico Mike Schmuhl (now Buttigieg’s presidential campaign manager), and outside counsel Rich Hill, even more seasoned in South Bend politics.

Reporter Jason Aubry later asked Buttigieg who had advised him on federal wiretapping laws and his dealings with the feds. Buttigeg named Hill; DeRose, the city attorney; and Notre Dame law Professor G. Robert Blakey.

But Aubry told Buttigieg that the professor knew virtually nothing about the case and asked when the mayor spoke to him. “I spoke with him yesterday afternoon,” Buttigieg said. That was June 1, two months after Boykins was demoted.

As for DeRose, her background was in banking, family law, and, ironically, employment discrimination. And she reportedly had been on vacation when the issue first arose. That left Hill as Buttigieg’s sole legal advisor at the outset on how to handle both the federal investigation and Boykins.

But Hill also had no substantial expertise in federal or criminal law. Like Boykins’ rivals, what Hill had was a trove of political connections.

Echoes of South Bend’s Past

At the time Buttigieg brought Hill on as outside counsel, he was with the powerful Indiana law firm Faegre Baker Daniels. Decades earlier, however, Hill had served as city attorney to then-Mayor Roger Parent, one of Buttigieg’s patrons. Hill also had ties to former Gov. Joe Kernan, Parent’s successor as mayor and the political patron who anointed Buttigieg for his mayoral run in the first place.

Hill had also operated in circles frequented by another Kernan backer central to Buttigieg’s mayoral victory: Bob Urbanski.

Parent told TYT that Urbanski and Hill would not have had extensive dealings with each other during his administration, but said they had met even earlier. Both Urbanski and Hill were involved Parent’s first mayoral campaign, in the late 1970s. Parent said, “I’m sure they talked to each other, they might have had a relationship.”

Later, the two were also among Kernan’s biggest backers. Hill and Urbanski gave $7,750 and $36,000, respectively, to Kernan’s statewide races.

Urbanski also became an investment partner in Kernan’s bid for the city’s minor league baseball team, the Silverhawks. Kernan would later credit Hill, who also dabbled in local sports investments, for making the city’s baseball stadium a reality.

By bringing Hill in as outside counsel, Buttigieg was replaying a political scandal from South Bend’s past. When controversy arose over how much Hill and his firm made on the tapes issue, no one seemed to recall that Hill had made headlines more than two decades earlier with virtually the exact same arrangement. It happened during Kernan’s race for mayor.

Excerpt of Sept. 23, 1987, South Bend Tribune report.

Archives of the South Bend Tribune show that in Kernan’s first mayoral race, his rivals made an issue out of Hill’s fees as outside counsel. In a September 1987 news conference, Republican mayoral candidate Carl Baxmeyer criticized the city for hiring Hill “on a part-time basis at almost twice his former salary” as city attorney. Parent, still mayor at the time, disputed Baxmeyer’s claim and said it made sense to hire Hill because he was already up to speed on issues including the stadium efforts.

Without Buttigieg’s 2011 campaign records, it’s not possible to know how much money Hill gave him. But the filings obtained by TYT show that in March 2011, the same time when Urbanski was said to be pushing Buttigieg to can Boykins, Hill — who was part of canning Boykins one year later — gave Buttigieg $1000.

Hill’s ties to Urbanski — and to Corbett — would blossom into public view several years after the tapes scandal. When Corbett ran for county sheriff last year, he took out a $45,000 loan to finance his campaign, with the help of three backers who guaranteed the loan. One was Dan Pfeifer, his lawyer on the tapes case. The other two backers were Urbanski and Hill, who also personally donated $16,000 and $17,500, respectively.

By the time Hill backed Corbett for sheriff, he would have had access to virtually everything DePaepe had heard, since her responses were sent to his firm, Faegre Baker Daniels, as Buttigieg’s outside counsel. In fact, court documents last year revealed that the cassette tapes themselves are no longer being held by the city, but reside in the firm’s Chicago offices.

Everything Blows Up

Boykins met with Hill and Schmuhl in late March of 2012. Hill allegedly threatened Boykins with prison if he didn’t resign, so Boykins tried to get in touch with Buttigieg.

In his book, Buttigieg writes that he called Boykins and told him the feds could prosecute him if he refused to step down. Boykins resigned.

The next day, everything blew up. Bolstered by the support of black community leaders, Boykins rescinded his resignation.

Facing community outrage and protest, Buttigieg demoted Boykins rather than have him leave the force entirely. Less than two weeks later, Hill and Schmuhl fired DePaepe, as well.

This time, though, there was someone else in the meeting. After demoting Boykins, Buttigieg had put an interim chief in charge, turning again to another figure who personified political connections.

Chuck Hurley was in one way perfectly qualified for the job of police chief, because he had held it before, back in the 1980s, under both Kernan and Parent. Hurley also had political connections, having served alongside then-city attorney Hill, who now had just overseen the SBPD’s change in command. What Buttigieg presumably did not know was that Hurley, the man he chose to replace the city’s first black police chief, had himself been accused of running a racist department during his first stint.

If you mention the name Corporal Eddie Vann to South Bend police, few will recall it. But he made the news in 1987 by submitting a letter of resignation publicly, claiming racism in the force. Vann specifically alleged a failure to promote black officers. Hurley was chief at the time.

Parent said he did not recall Vann’s resignation, but offered a vigorous defense of Hurley. While acknowledging there “might have been some discrimination” within the force at the time, Parent said under his administration the percentage of black cops and firefighters doubled from about six percent to about 13 or 14 percent. He said Hurley was supportive of that and had good relationships with the African-American community.

SBPD personnel files obtained through a public-records request show that Vann was promoted to corporal the year before he resigned. Both Vann and Hurley received multiple letters of commendation during their careers.

More recently, just one year before Buttigieg brought him back, Hurley had been serving as a deputy coroner for the county. As TYT previously reported, Hurley in 2011 declared the fatal hanging of a 16-year-old black boy to be a suicide — despite the lack of an investigation, autopsy, or forensic examination of the scene or the body.

Hurley, who had no medical training, allegedly told the boy’s mother he knew a suicide when he saw one. The current coroner, Mike McGann, told TYT that he was unable to locate an internal report on the boy’s death that should have been filed by Hurley.

(The mother, Stephanie Jones, asked Buttigieg in the summer of 2012 for help reopening the case. She told TYT she did not know at the time that the new mayor had just made Hurley his chief of police. Buttigieg allegedly told her to call him but never took or returned her calls when she did.)

Just one month after Hurley stepped in, Corbett allegedly told SBPD Officer Jack Stilp to shut up about the tapes scandal. Stilp filed an internal report about what he described as Corbett’s threatening language, and then gave it to the media.

The incident reached the Board of Public Safety, which has police oversight, and Hurley said there would be an investigation — not into Corbett’s threat; into Stilp’s leak. Corbett was ultimately suspended for five days by the homicide unit board, after which Hurley recommended a ten-day suspension for Stilp.

After the Tapes

To find Hurley’s replacement, Buttigieg went far from South Bend, but couldn’t escape issues of race. His next chief, Ron Teachman, came in from New Bedford, MA, but ended up handing Buttigieg another issue with racial undertones. When Indiana State Police (ISP) investigated the incident, Buttigieg refused to release the report. (An excerpt from the ISP report leaked to TYT contradicted Buttigieg’s public characterization of its findings.)

As for Corbett, he almost won his sheriff’s race last year. Wells and Young both donated, as did Sam Hensley and Joe Kernan, the former mayor and governor. Hurley, the two-time SBPD chief, gave Corbett almost $1000 and even tried to help by jumping in as a spoiler, earning the wrath of the South Bend Tribune’s editorial board.

Wells, Corbett’s lieutenant, rose to become commander of the drug unit in 2015. Capt. Young was made commander of the county’s special victims unit in 2013, and retired last year.

Ken Cotter, the deputy prosecutor who urged Buttigieg to replace Boykins with Steve Richmond, won election in 2014 as county prosecutor.

Ruszkowski — said to have privately urged Buttigieg to replace Boykins with Walters, which would let Ruszkowski rise to chief of uniforms — did just that in October 2013. Ruszkowski served as Uniform Division chief for two years before Buttigieg made him chief of the department in 2015. (Recently, Ruszkowski has faced calls for his termination in light of the fatal SBPD shooting of a black suspect by an officer who had not activated his body camera. That officer and another on the scene had histories of race-related complaints.)

Buttigieg has fared well in the seven years since the tapes scandal broke. His data-driven efforts to revitalize South Bend’s downtown have won him fans on the national level, although some hometown holdouts downplay his achievements and point to evidence that the city’s black community has been left behind.

The tapes case remains in court, with hearings expected this month. Buttigieg continues to maintain that he wants to know what’s on the recordings but is legally barred from finding out.

Today, six percent of the SBPD is black, in a city where 26 percent of residents are black. When Buttigieg took office, the SBPD had 29 black officers. Today, the number is 15.

Asked at a debate in June why his police force is not more diverse, Buttigieg said, “I couldn’t get it done.”

Of at least three black officers targeted by name in the recordings, none received promotion after Buttigieg was elected. Only one remains on the force, his social media indicating that he holds the same position he has had for the past 16 years.

Boykins’ demotion left him a captain. He is now retired and was honored last year for his work with children.

Will Johnson, the investigator city attorneys were told was targeted because of his ties to Boykins, got a graduate degree in human resources in February 2017, according to his Facebook page.

Four months later, he quit the SBPD, where his Facebook page said he had served as an “Ethics and Diversity Instructor.” Johnson now works in human resources in Arizona.

Jonathan Larsen is TYT’s managing editor. You can find him on Twitter @JTLarsen.

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