SOUTH BEND, Ind. — REAL News Michiana has discovered what appears to be multiple high ranking city officials receiving payments from the city of South Bend from money that was was intended to go toward helping people who were financially impacted by COVID19 lockdowns. These officials not only maintained their jobs through the pandemic, many were given raises or bonuses during that time.
RNM is breaking down the disbursement of nearly $3.1 million dollars used for Utility Forgiveness by the City of South Bend, which wiped away outstanding bills for water, sewer and trash for approximately 5,000 residents.
Multiple recipients of the forgiveness program appear to be in a Director level positions within South Bend city government, including Mayor James Mueller’s own executive assistant. According to documents uncovered by REAL News Michiana through a public records request, Yesenia Garcilazo received $195.37 in utility forgiveness. Garcilazo appears to be the Executive Assistant and Director of Special Projects for the City of South Bend.
According to the City of South Bend website, “Garcilazo serves as Mayor Mueller’s Executive Assistant. Yesenia is responsible for tracking scheduling requests, maintaining the Mayor’s calendar, and other administrative duties.”
South Bend used federal COVID relief dollars for the forgiveness program, giving a blanket disbursement of up to $2,500 in utilities forgiveness without folks needing to apply. It’s unclear if Garcilazo had prior knowledge about program, pre-launch, and city officials will not answer any questions from RNM regarding the obvious conflict of interest. However, it is safe to assume the Mayor’s own Executive Assistant would have known this program was going to launch. It’s just not clear if that knowledge led to Garcilazo not paying her utility bill, knowing it would later be paid by the city.
RNM is working to confirm how much Garcilazo is paid in her position, but other Director level leaders within the city earn well over $70,000 per year, including another apparent recipient, Alkeyna Aldridge. Aldridge appears to be the Director of Engagement & Economic Empowerment and received $382.52 in utility forgiveness.
The City of South Bend refused to provide RNM with the addresses that received the forgiveness. And, city officials will not discuss anything about the program with RNM. However, RNM was only able to identify one Yesenia Garcilazo and one Alkeyna Aldridge living in the city.
As of publication, neither Aldridge or Garcilazo have responded to RNM’s inquiries.
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