Tensions high at St. Joseph County Commissioners meeting

Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 6:35 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Tensions ran high at the weekly St. Joseph County Board of Commissioner’s meeting, peaking at the end during the public comments section.

“I knew men who were killed believing in democracy for this country,” remarked Mario Sims, a veteran and South Bend resident.

Comments from residents were mostly aimed at the board’s vote to hire a law firm to monitor the legal proceedings about the county’s ballot security.

“And you expect we taxpayers to pay for that?” raised attorney Michael McManus, a St. Joseph County resident.

Sims expressed concern that “political motivations and desires” are governing the commissioners’ decisions instead of serving the public.

“I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know how anyone sleeps at night,” he said.

Commissioner Carl Baxmeyer, the board president, responded with a different concern.

“All this talk about wasting taxpayer money and overstepping authority, that just is to divert attention from what really is driving this whole thing, and that this should be a bipartisan method way of handling absentee ballots,” said Baxmeyer.

Other residents questioned the ethics of Baxmeyer and Commissioner Deb Fleming.

“I feel like you’re being tempted to stoop beneath your professional ethics in order to survive something,” said resident Debra Durall.

Former St. Joseph County Emergency Management Director John Antonucci also spoke during the public comments portion.

“President Baxmeyer, you have been here less than two months, and I have to tell you, I’m ashamed to have been an employee and the director of emergency management in St. Joseph County by the things that have transpired in the last eight, nine weeks here,” said Antonucci.

When asked about the board’s ability to work together, Baxmeyer stated: “It’s not politics solely from the Republican Party. It’s politics of one of the commissioners wanting to draw this out and, again, kind of make a political statement, rather than doing what’s right for the people. And the people have a right to know, were the ballots handled appropriately? Is this done in a bipartisan way? That’s really the issue here.”

There has been public tension between Baxmeyer and fellow Republican Commissioner Derek Dieter since Baxmeyer’s election as board president in August.

Baxmeyer confirmed the agenda for the October 25th commissioners meeting will include a Dieter-proposed resolution that pertains to who is eligible to be elected to president of the board of commissioners.

Tensions were high at the St. Joseph County Commissioner’s meeting Monday night.