A sharply divided South Bend council committee today considering punishing a member for a controversial and possibly obscene Facebook post made last January.
The first official motion to dole out discipline against 2nd District Councilman Henry Davis, Jr. died on a two-two vote.
The debate was sometimes heated and the crowd of about thirty people was occasionally emotional.
“I was hoping for some sort of resolution and obviously we are not there and it looks like it’s going to be a little bit longer,” said Councilman Henry Davis, Jr.
Two of the four members of the council rules committee clearly wanted Davis punished, although not necessarily to hurt him.
“I don't think there's any criminal intent here but I think there's some civil problems we have,” said 4th District Councilman Dr. Fred Ferlic. And if this occurred in a hospital, he would go before an employee assistance program, and the city has that in H.R.”
“The material without question was obscene,” said Rules Committee Chairman Dr. David Varner. “Council people probably knowingly, unknowingly, intentionally, or unintentionally shouldn't allow posting like that.”
But two other committee members saw the proceedings themselves as obscene. “This is absolutely shameful. We are coming up on $10,000 in legal fees and countless numbers of hours on an investigation on something that really is so insignificant,” said 3rd District Councilwoman Valerie Schey.
6th District Councilman Oliver Davis says there are no rules in place regarding a council member’s use of social media. “But the key thing here is how much do we judge somebody even in their private world? And that's a serious question that we look at, how much do we judge council members when they are drinking, when they are in their private life.”
The rules committee stalemate won’t prevent the matter from reaching the full nine member common council—most likely at the next meeting on June 23rd when a public hearing is planned.
The council attorney recommended that Davis be stripped of his leadership posts on three committees for the remainder of the year or longer.
This appears to be the first time since 1986 that the council has moved to censure a member.
In July of that month, Councilman Al Paszek was disciplined for comments he made to a newspaper reporter.