Complaints against Henry Davis Jr. over graphic Facebook post dismissed

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- After five months of debate over a graphic Facebook post, a South Bend Councilman is off the hook.

Council President Oliver Davis used his authority to dismiss complaints against Henry Davis Jr. during Monday's council meeting.

Davis Jr. faced possible discipline from the council after posting a graphic photo on Facebook in January.

Several citizens filed formal complaints against the councilman, prompting the Indiana State Police to investigate.

Special Prosecutor Daniel Hampton of Kosciusko County determined that the image in question was indeed “obscene,” but that Davis and others lacked criminal intent in distributing it. He decided not to file charges in the case.

On June 9, the council rules committee was deadlocked on whether or not the post warranted punishment.

As a result, Davis Jr. filed a motion asking for the complaints to be dismissed last week.

The council's rules committee debated the issue at length Monday afternoon.

During that meeting, Fred Ferlic made a motion that passed 2-1 to publicly censure Davis Jr., remove him from committee leadership, prohibit him from voting at the committee level and to deny him access to public funds for the remainder of the year.

But, there was much debate over whether the 2-1 vote on a committee of four constituted the majority needed for the measure to go before the full council.

There was also confusion over whether the president of the council is allowed to vote on committees.

"We discovered that within the system that we have and procedures that there's some flaws," said Rules Committee Chair Dave Varner. "But, those can be corrected. None of those flaws were intended to hurt anybody, harm anybody. They existed for a period of time and they came to light tonight."

After a heated discussion of the rules, the council did take up the Davis Jr. discipline issue during Monday's regular meeting.

Ferlic amended his motion at that time, because of the potential "legal, racial and kindness ramifications." He proposed Davis Jr. only be publicly censured.

Several other council members urged President Oliver Davis to make a final decision on the matter, after he expressed during the afternoon council meeting that he intended to exercise his authority as president, even if it meant overruling the rest of the council.

"I wish only that if President Davis had the intention of quashing everything he would have done that sooner," Varner said. "Everyone could have been spared."

Davis called for the complaints against Davis Jr. to be stricken from the record so the issue can't be revisited.

Davis Jr. says he's glad the saga is over.

"I'm just happy to be able to move forward," he said. "I'm elated. But, I'm more happier at this time that we're going to be able to concentrate on city business."

Oliver Davis is now asking the council to address the issue of social media and come up with specific rules for its members. He's hopeful it could help them avoid similar issues in the future.

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