South Bend Common Council meeting canceled, officials dispute why

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- After the South Bend Common Council meeting was canceled Monday, finger-pointing between the council and the clerk's office continued ongoing drama within the municipal government.

"There's this drama, there's that drama. This person's not doing their job. He said, she said, deflecting," said Shane Williams-Inez, public relations specialist for the South Bend City Clerk's office. "I think that whatever the promise was that was made to the residents of south bend about moving south bend forward, is not being upheld, and it's purely politics over people."

These are strong words from Williams-Inez following the last round of municipal drama, which started after Monday's common council meeting, was canceled.

"I believe this is the first time in history that the council had to cancel a meeting because of the violation of Open Door law by a clerk, and for the dereliction of duties," said Sharon McBride, common council president.

McBride said City Clerk Dawn Jones failed to post the meeting notice 48 hours prior, violating Indiana's Open Door laws. Jones said she posted a meeting notice outside council chambers Thursday at 12:51 in the afternoon. But McBride said it was not posted until 10:57 in the morning Monday.  

"It's been over 3 years now for her to know what her role is and know what her job is," McBride said. "And for us to have to cancel a meeting and delay bills is disheartening and is not right for our taxpayers and our citizens of South Bend."

Both the council attorney and the Indiana public access counselor agree that if there were questions about when the meeting notice was posted, then it's better to be safe than sorry, and cancel the meeting.

"Unfortunately, allowing her to do her job, this time, cost us to cancel a meeting because she did not file the postings properly," McBride said.

But Clerk Jones said all of this is untrue and said she did post the meeting notice on time.

"I don't know why exactly the meeting was canceled, this is the first time that's happened since I've been clerk," Jones said. "We can go back and forth all day long and say we had proof. I don't want that kind of conversation, that is not good for the community. I'm not here to fight the council. I'm here to do my job, which is to do the administration for the council."

Jones publicly questioned whether this was a move to delay voting over a resolution for reparations in South Bend. The resolution was tabled before last week's meeting, with council leadership citing filing technicalities.

"It is an uncomfortable conversation," Jones said, referring to reparations, "but it's a conversation that needs to be had."

But McBride said that accusation is ludicrous.

"That inference that we are trying to stop the public from hearing bills or resolutions is just ludicrous and so far-fetched and solely based on the public was not notified correctly," McBride said.  

City workers agree the drama is ultimately withholding information from the residents of South Bend.

"The city of south bend has business to conduct, yet that business cannot be conducted when politics are put over people," Williams-Inez said.  

"If you see something that's not there that should be there, why not tell us?" Jones said. "You know, why cancel the whole meeting, deprive a whole city, deprive the residents of information they need to know how the city is running?"

McBride said a contractor was hired by the council to support the clerk's responsibilities and be a liaison between the council and the clerk's office. She said they wouldn't need the contractor if Jones were doing her job correctly.

That contractor is now running against Jones for the seat of the city clerk.

South Bend Mayor James Mueller, weighing in on the drama, released a statement:

“There was important business for our city on tonight’s agenda, and I’m disappointed that an embarrassing procedural error prevents the Common Council from moving forward today. I am working with Council leadership to reschedule this meeting as soon as possible to take action on the many important agenda items.”

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