Secret tapes and a giant racial scandal dog Buttigieg’s rise to prominence; he’s an oppo researchers dream

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to supporters. Credit: JOSHUA LOTT/AFP/Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg has become a contender in the race for the Democrat presidential nomination, but lingering issues in the racially polarized city of South Bend, Indiana, where he has served as Mayor since 2012, threaten to gum up the works for him.

An Indiana judge is expected to rule soon on the question of releasing five secretly recorded cassette tapes between South Bend police officers which resulted in the demotion of Chief Darryl Boykins, the city’s first black police chief.

Soon after taking office as mayor in 2012, he made what he calls his “first serious mistake as mayor.”

Federal investigators informed him that they were investigating Boykins in a possible wiretapping scandal. Boykins was a well-like and widely respected figure in the community. Buttigieg decided to keep the FBI information to himself.

Two months later, Buttigieg asked for Chief Boykins to resign, which he did. The backlash came quickly, as South Bend Common Council members criticized Buttigieg’s management style and expressed frustration that he had not told them of the investigation.

“To learn that Mayor Pete Buttigieg has known about a federal investigation taking place within the South Bend Police Department since January 2012 is truly disturbing, especially since … (the mayor) did not inform anyone on the South Bend Common Council about the investigation,” council member Oliver Davis said. “This shows a tremendous lack of respect and poor communication between the city’s administration and the South Bend Common Council.”

The next day at the city’s “1 Million Hoodie March” honoring Trayvon Martin, Boykins tearfully and angrily addressed the crowds, saying: “I’m going to do what I can with my attorney and fight as hard as I can to clear my name.”

The Washington Free Beacon reported what happened next: “That evening, bolstered by community discontent with the mayor, Boykins rescinded his resignation, but Buttigieg refused, and instead demoted him to captain.

In the days following, the details of Boykins’s alleged wiretap emerged. In 2011, police communications director Karen DePaepe noticed she had been recording officers’ phone lines, capturing conversations between Tim Corbett, Dave Wells, and Steve Richmond, along with Capt. Brian Young and his wife Sandy. DePaepe listened to some of the recordings and claimed she heard racist banter about Boykins in some of the conversations. She then reported this to Boykins, who in turn castigated his officers for what they had thought were private remarks. These officers complained to the FBI, who began an investigation as early as the spring of 2011. When Buttigieg asked for Boykins’s resignation, neither man had heard the tapes—and Buttigieg refused to do so, fearing it might be illegal or an infringement on a federal investigation.   

On April 2, seven of the nine Common Council members signed a petition asking that Buttigieg reconsider Boykins as chief.

The South Bend City Council has subpoenaed Buttigieg to secure the release of the tapes, while the mayor has fought hard to keep the tapes concealed.

At one point, members of Jesse Jackson’ Rainbow PUSH coalition met with Buttigieg.

Karen White, a city councilwoman and Democrat who is black, said, “There’s a level of frustration. We want this issue to be brought to closure to ensure this issue does not polarize our community further. We have a right to know (what’s on the tapes), as do our citizens.”

Buttigieg has also been in hot water for saying in a speech that “all lives matter” … not a popular pronouncement among the politically correct leftist crowd.

According to The Hill, local South Bend activists have for years been critical of the mayor’s economic policies which they contend have disproportionately benefited white residents and ignoring a high unemployment rate among the area’s minorities.

Race is a big issue in presidential politics. Buttigieg has a few related issues that will surely be haunting him moving forward as he tries to persuade the left to embrace him.



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