South Bend Communications Director Karen DePaepe was fired this week following a federal investigation into the police department.
DePaepe declined an on camera interview with NewsCenter 16 on the advice of her lawyer, but said she was the one who found the recordings more than a year ago and reported them to then-Chief Darryl Boykins.
DePaepe is a 25-year veteran of the communications staff. She told NewsCenter 16 she stumbled on to the recordings in the normal course of her job. It is her responsibility to answer requests for recorded phone calls, which often requires her to listen to various calls to find the one being sought.
Earlier this year, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation questioned her about the recordings and confirmed she was considered a witness in their investigation, not a suspect. She said she had been in contact with the local branch of the U.S. Attorney's Office, which had instructed her not to quit her job as recently as two weeks ago.
DePaepe said she was surprised by the demotion of Chief Boykins last month and thought of him as the victim based on what she heard in the recordings. She said she tried to arrange a meeting with Mayor Pete Buttigieg to discuss why she felt she thought Boykins was the victim, but was not able to meet with him.
On Tuesday, Buttigieg's Chief of Staff Mike Schmuhl called her to the 14th floor of the County-City Building, where the mayor's office is located, to meet with Interim Chief Chuck Hurley and Rich Hill, a special attorney working with Buttigieg. At the meeting she was told she was going to be the second person personnel change following the investigation and asked if she would like to resign. When she refused she was terminated.
DePaepe claims Schmuhl threatened to have her arrested if she discussed the recordings or the investigation.
A spokesperson with the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Indiana was unable to comment because no charges had been filed. The FBI was unable to confirm or deny an investigation was taking place or had been closed. Traditionally when an investigation is completed it is turned over the U.S. Attorney's Office for review if charges can be filed.