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Mayor Buttigieg answers racism question

June 21, 2012|By Kelli Stopczynski (kstopczynski@wsbt.com) | WSBT-TV

SOUTH BEND – For the first time, we are hearing from South Bend's mayor about an allegation that the demotion of the city's police chief was racially motivated.

In a letter threatening to sue the city, former Police Chief Darryl Boykins' attorney Tom Dixon made the allegation. His tort claim notice also says that since taking office six months ago, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has demoted or gotten rid of the three highest ranking black employees in the city.

Thursday, WSBT asked Mayor Buttigieg about the allegation. Here’s what he said:

“Well of course, that allegation is untrue. As far as threatened litigation, I can't get into details, because I need to let that work through the legal process.  But I strongly disagree, and I understand that's part of some strategy, but a very unfair thing to say.  In not so many words, he did kind of call you a racist.  And I’m really upset about that, but I need to allow this to work through the legal process.”

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Mayor Buttigieg demoted former Police Chief Daryl Boykins, he says as a result of the federal investigation into wiretapping at the police department.

Boykins attorney says beyond the now former police chief, former mayor's assistant Lynn Coleman and now retired South Bend Fire Chief Howard Buchanan are the other high ranking black leaders the mayor did not carry over from the previous administration.

Coleman and Buchanan tell WSBT they understood the mayor's decision not to keep them on board...because he has the authority to choose who he wants for those positions.

WSBT asked Buchanan, “He didn’t pick you. Did you ever think it was racially motivated?  Did that ever cross your mind?  “No, no, “ Buchanan replied. “ I never thought of it in that realm. But now, the way everything is coming out and showing it, you kind of think maybe?  I still don't think so, because he has a right to chose who he wants.”

“In this short period of time, the mayor's actions with regard to the leadership in the African-American community have been hard to understand, hard to explain,” said Dixon.

Mayor Buttigeig says he owes the citizens of South Bend to always have the best possible person for the job and says he will always do that with an eye toward the importance of diversity.

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