South Bend wiretapping case heading back to the courtroom

Tim Scott// WSBT 22

A controversial wiretapping case is headed back to a state courtroom.

A federal appeals court sent the case back there six years after city leaders disagreed about making a handful of audio tapes public.

What began as an inquiry to hear South Bend police officers' taped phone calls is no further along than when the Common Council filed a 2012 subpoena to get them.

"We've spent the last six years spending a lot of time and money to get, in my opinion, absolutely nowhere,” said Common Council Attorney, Bob Palmer.

A Federal Appeals Court sent the case back to the state court Monday saying federal court is not the proper jurisdiction.

Last year, a district court judge ruled some of the recordings were protected by the Federal Wiretap Act and couldn't be released. But the judge didn't say what should happen to the calls that weren't protected.

"It was council's intention that this goes to the state level and have the state make the decision,” said Common Council President, Tim Scott.

He says the council originally filed to subpoena information that led to the demotion of then-police Chief Darryl Boykins and the dismissal of former Communications Director, Karen DePaepe.

"Their pursuit of this is transparency within city government. Within the police department to make sure everything is done on the up and up,” said Scott.

In a statement, Mayor Pete Buttigieg says he'll be "discussing possible ways forward with council leadership as we seek to address this matter in a lawful and fashion."

Pending a 30-day window for further appeals, the case will move to state court.

"We have a very good, very viable, good-faith belief that we are complying with the Wiretap Act. We would not have issued the subpoenas otherwise,” Palmer said.

The council will discuss legal options in a closed-door session on Monday.

The council's lawyer says they'll likely file a motion to get the matter back in circuit court.

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