SOUTH BEND – The mayor says he demoted the citys police chief in March and fired the police communications director two weeks later after federal authorities notified him that the department had violated the Federal Wiretap Act.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg told Common Council members Tuesday night that the department used computer software to record and archive phone calls to emergency, dispatch and up to 10 additional lines, the South Bend Tribune reports. The recordings were stored on a server for three years.
He says officials in his administration ordered police March 30 to record only emergency and dispatch calls in accordance with federal authorities instructions.
Buttigieg says federal authorities subpoenaed all tapes made of improperly recorded phone conversations, and those recordings remain in their possession.
Stage collapse trials likely 2 years away
A group of lawsuits related to last summers deadly Indiana State Fair stage collapse likely wont go to trial for nearly two years, according to a judges ruling that also warned attorneys not to release any evidence in the high-profile case.
Marion Superior Court Judge Theodore Sosin released an order acknowledging that most attorneys in the case want a trial no earlier than April 1, 2014.
The judge didnt set a trial date but ordered both sides into mediation to try to work out a settlement.
The order also warns lawyers that they could face sanctions if they say anything or disclose evidence that might prejudice court proceedings, noting such a move would violate a protective order and legal codes of conduct.
Weather punishing state’s corn crop
Indianas recent hot, dry weather is taking a toll on the states young corn crop that many farmers planted early because of the early spring.
Much of the state has seen little rain in recent weeks, with the National Weather Service recording less than an inch of rain in the Fort Wayne area during May and just less than 2 inches in Evansville for the month.
Purdue Extension agronomist Bob Nielsen said the U.S. Drought Monitor shows Indiana is beginning to experience abnormally dry weather that can damage young corn plants.
There is concern that we may be in the beginning stages of a drought, Nielsen told the Lafayette Journal & Courier. We need some good rain to restore the moisture and ideally avoid the excessive heat we had over the weekend.
Steuben fish die-off not devastating
The state Department of Natural Resources says a largemouth bass die-off last August at Johnson Lake in Steuben County that was caused by a virus was not as bad as originally feared.
DNR biologist Neil Ledet said that although the die-off at the lake was disappointing, it wasnt devastating.
Biologists from the DNR went to the 17-acre natural lake in May and captured 49 bass in 30 minutes during an electrofishing survey.
The DNR says the catch rate was typical for bass populations in most northeast Indiana lakes.
The DNR says similar die-offs caused by largemouth bass virus have occurred at other Indiana lakes, including Steuben Countys Lake George in 2000 and Hamilton Lake in 2001. The agency says bass populations in both lakes fully recovered.
Animal sanctuary’s 7 big cats seized
State wildlife officers have seized four tigers and three other big cats from a northern Indiana animal sanctuary after inspectors found violations of its permits, officials said.
State conservation officers took the tigers, a lion, a bobcat and a mountain lion from Great Cats of Indiana near the White County community of Idaville on Tuesday.
Department of Natural Resources Lt. Dan Dulin said officers began investigating the facility licensed to Great Cats director Rob Craig after a complaint about its enclosures and care for the animals.
Dulin told the Journal & Courier of Lafayette that the seven cats seized were the only animals still being housed at Great Cats.
Great Cats stopped giving public tours in 2010, when Craig told WLFI-TV that it was becoming too time-consuming and expensive to keep it open to the public. At the time, the sanctuary had 25 animals including 13 tigers.