An apparent power struggle between the city clerk and the mayor of South Bend is reaching a boiling point.
Last night, the South Bend Common Council unanimously passed new legislation to give Mayor James Mueller purview over appointing and removing members of the city’s new community police review board.
That authority originally resided with City Clerk Dawn Jones, who hired former Indianapolis police officer Josh Reynolds to be the board’s director. Mueller has called for Mueller to resign or be fired by Jones for the better part of the last month after it was revealed Reynold has been suspended seven times during his time with Indy Metro Police.
Both Reynolds and Jones have refused.
The vote by the council Monday night gives the mayor control over the review board, which is something the NAACP of South Bend, Black Lives Matter South Bend, and other community activists are ardently against, saying the move damages the independence of the review board.
“The mayor appoints the chief of police, supports the FOP, and appoints members of the board of public safety. Where is the independence,” asked Trina Robinson, president of the South Bend NAACP. “This issue is not about the clerk or the director of the CPRB, but about giving the mayor’s office more authority over a flawed system.”
Clerk Dawn Jones spoke with the aforementioned organizations outside city call in South Bend, Monday, and joined them in calling the move a “power grab.”
“I just want to do my job as the city clerk,” Jones said. “And operate in independence as was established by the state. That’s what I’m doing, that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
Jones said Reynolds needs to be able to operate independently and reiterated that the bill passed by the Common Council hurts that independence. She added that it’s a slippery slope.
“Say the board operates in six months from now and another decision comes up that mayor or the powers at be are not in agreement with, does this happen all over again,” she asked.
“The mayor has had his chance to run a Board, he’s had oversight of the police department and he’s been in office for a year in a half and the community has not seen any change. And that’s why the community I feel has come out to support me so much,” Reynolds said.
Mayor Mueller said in a letter read before the council meeting that Clerk Jones has not adequately kept the Common Council in the loop on hiring and discipline decisions regarding the board. That will now be up to the mayor and the council to decide and work in tandem.
“I thank and commend Councilmembers for stepping up to end this embarrassing episode and get this important initiative back on track,” the mayor said. “I look forward to signing these amendments into law and working with Councilmembers to fill the Director position quickly.”