SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The feud between several Democrat members of the South Bend Common Council and the Democrat City Clerk continues to boil. On Tuesday, four Democrat members of the council signed off on a statement lambasting City Clerk Dawn Jones.
“We also denounce Clerk Dawn Jones’ attempts to ignore and deflect her inability to do her job.” The press release read in part. Councilmembers Sheila Niezgodski, Canneth Lee, Troy Warner and Rachel Tomas Morgan, who are all Democrats, signed onto the release.
This comes after Council President Sharon McBride cancelled Monday night's meeting due to the meeting's agenda not being published in accordance with state law.
“In South Bend, it is the responsibility of the City Clerk to post the notice of Common Council meetings at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting. Unfortunately, this did not occur. Posting of notice and agendas online is required by council practices and procedures more than 48 hours prior to meetings. The online notification was not accessible to the public until after 1 p.m. on Friday, January 20, 2023. On further investigation, it was discovered that the physical notice had not been posted as required by law.” McBride wrote in her press release on Monday.
However, REAL News Michiana obtained an original draft of the meeting agenda which was sent to all council members on Thursday. Sources tell RNM, the agenda had been altered because Councilmember Henry Davis Jr. was going to be late to the meeting and had requested a specific item be moved lower in the agenda so he could be present. The change caused consternation between Jones and council members, including McBride. The draft was not approved and was then sent back to the Clerk to be changed.
The “final” draft was sent on Friday and contained several errors in spelling and committee information.
The feud between McBride and Jones became inflamed after an RNM report uncovered the secret contract of a woman hired to do the job of the South Bend City Clerk, as well as one of her questionable invoices, charging the City of South Bend more than $11,500 for a month of work. The contract was never seen or approved by the entire Common Council. In fact, it appears council President Sharon McBride and Vice President Sheila Niezgodski are the only two who even knew about it. It also appears none of the other council members were aware of the invoicing either.
“This is a scandal.” Democrat Common Council Member, Henry Davis Jr., said to RNM at the time. “Let’s not push it aside. The council deserves more. The city needs more. The council leadership allowed this to happen. All parties need to apologize and/or resign.”
McBride responded to the story with a scathing press release, essentially calling Jones incompetent.
The contract, which took effect in April of this year, is for former Chief Deputy Clerk Bianca Tirado. Sources tell RNM, she has been acting as the defacto City Clerk in her scope of duties. However, South Bend citizens are responsible for electing their City Clerk. The current Clerk is Dawn Jones.
The contract states, “The parties agree that the Consultant will be compensated at a monthly rate not to exceed $6,000 a month. It is understood that if performed hourly, the services to be provided would approximate $60 per hour for hours approved by the Common Council… Upon receipt of the Consultant’s monthly summary of services, the Common Council may request greater detail from the Consultant as it deems appropriate.”
Despite that, Tirado charged the city $11,520 for work done between 11/18/2022 and 12/20/2022. She claimed to work 8 hour days for 24 work days that month. And, most of the council members weren’t able to request greater detail about her work and billing because the invoices were never provided to them.
As stated above, Tirado recently billed the City of South Bend for nearly double the agreed to rate. Her invoice is also extremely questionable. She lists “emails” and “logistics” with little detail, claiming those took 8 hours. Every item listed also shows she worked an 8 hour day.
Tirado left her job as the Chief Deputy Clerk for the City of South Bend in April to work as the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the South Bend / Elkhart Regional Partnership, a non-profit that works to facilitate economic growth in Michiana. Sources tell RNM Tirado resigned from that position on November 4th to focus on running for City Clerk in 2023.
Multiple sources with the City of South Bend tell RNM that there is a major rift between local Democrats and current City Clerk, Dawn Jones. Sources say city leaders like Mayor James Mueller, Common Council President Sharon McBride and Vice President Sheila Niezgodski have been pushing for Tirado to run for City Clerk against Jones and that they may have colluded to create this position to help pad her campaign coffers.
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Was Henry Davis Jr. going to be late for the meeting because he wanted to drive drunk the wrong way on the bypass? Or did he grow out of that phase when he got nothing more than a slap on the wrist?