SOUTH BEND, Ind. — REAL News Michiana has learned a high ranking member of Mayor James Mueller’s executive staff resigned the same week RNM published a story showing she benefited from a city COVID relief plan meant to go to those in need. According to a story by the South Bend Tribune, Alkeyna Aldridge resigned the first week of August. Aldridge was the City of South Bend’s Director of Engagement & Economic Empowerment, making a salary of more than $70,000 per year.
According to the South Bend tribune, “Aldridge told The Tribune she stepped down for personal and financial reasons, namely that she needed a higher salary. Working for city government during the pandemic made for a difficult two years, she added.”
On August 1st, RNM published a story regarding Aldridge benefiting from 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. According to documents uncovered by REAL News Michiana through a public records request, Alkeyna Aldridge received $382.52 in utility forgiveness.
South Bend used federal COVID relief dollars for the forgiveness program, giving a blanket disbursement of up to $2,500 in utilities forgiveness. It’s unclear if Aldridge was part of the planning for this program and city officials will not answer any questions from RNM regarding the obvious conflict of interest. However, it is safe to assume the city’s Engagement and Economic Empowerment Director would have had some knowledge of the program. It’s just not clear if that knowledge led to Aldridge not paying her utility bill, knowing it would later be paid by the city.
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 Alkeyna Aldridge living in the city.
Aldridge did not respond to RNM’s request for comment either.
According to the South Bend Tribune, Aldridge has since been hired as the Director of Human Resources for the South Bend Empowerment Zone, which has also seen its fair share of corruption.
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