Inform, Entertain, Inspire
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

St. Joseph County Commissioners fire Sharon McBride as director of DuComb Center amid investigation

Sharon McBride
Sharon McBride

The week began with Sharon McBride delivering an impassioned defense in front of St. Joseph County Commissioners regarding her stewardship of the DuComb Center. However on Friday, the commissioners fired McBride from her role as director of the DuComb Center, which serves as the county's community corrections program.

Commissioners claim a recent audit turned up apparent financial mismanagement and fraud at the center. They grilled McBride at a public meeting Tuesday about a series of payroll claims and invoices, including why her mother, who works in the center’s kitchen, made $47,000 in overtime pay last year.

On Wednesday, commissioners announced they opened an investigation into the DuComb Center's finances. On Friday, they fired McBride, who is a sitting South Bend Common Council member and has led the DuComb Center for over a decade.

McBride did not immediately return a phone call from WVPE on Friday.

At Tuesday’s meeting, which felt more like an adversarial court hearing, McBride said state law requires one woman be present at the center around the clock and with staffing shortages due to low wages, her mother is often the only female employee available.

"Being that she works hard, volunteers (for overtime), and they call her in, and what would have happened on Thursday and Friday had she not been there? Would you rather she had clocked out and went home, for them to attempt to make calls to try and find a female, who too had just called off that day?" McBride said Tuesday.

"So to keep the public safe, and to follow the processes and the court order and the sentencing order, to go to the jail and do a hookup? I would rather pay Delores Walker overtime, yes."

McBride emphasized that her mother, Delores Walker, does not directly report to her and that Walker has been an employee at the center for years now and commissioners have never raised concerns about her pay or position before.

Defenders of McBride’s have criticized the manner in which commissioners have handled the apparent discrepancies, saying they didn’t give her time to prepare answers to detailed financial statements. At Tuesday’s meeting McBride also took offense to the commissioners’ line of questioning, saying they had a human resources meeting on Friday but then bombarded her with questions about invoices on Monday that she could have had answers to had she had time to gather the paperwork.

“And to have this type of meeting in a public setting is shameful, and intimidating, and very embarrassing to you, to myself as a professional in this field, who has never been disciplined a day in 14 years in the county," McBride said.

Clint Zalas, an attorney hired by commissioners said at the public meeting the auditor's report found 25 DuComb Center employees earned nearly $250,000 in overtime pay in 2023. McBride countered that commissioners have been told for years that there have been staffing shortages and high turnover at the center and with the county jail offering around $10 per hour, many people hired quickly move over there as corrections officers or case managers.

Julie Lawson, who is the former warden of the St. Joseph County Jail, will take over for McBride.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.