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Linda Barnes-Caldwell

Linda Barnes-Caldwell

GARY — Fifth District City Councilwoman Linda Barnes-Caldwell vehemently denied allegations recently outlined in federal court filings in which a confidential informant reported she often leaked information to her estranged husband — accused in two murders — about open police investigations.

“They are false,” Barnes-Caldwell after Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Cliff Caldwell, a Lake County sheriff's officer and Gary resident, requested Council President Ron Brewer reassign Barnes-Caldwell from head of the public safety committee in light of the court filings that disclosed the allegations.

The allegations, if true, are “very troubling,” Caldwell told The Times.

Caldwell said while he shares the same last name, he is not related to Barnes-Caldwell nor Teddia Caldwell, by marriage or otherwise.

Barnes-Caldwell previously told The Times she was estranged from her husband, Teddia Caldwell, a 43-year-old Gary business owner who could face the death penalty for his alleged role in the murders of Akeem Oliver, 29, of Gary, and Kevin Hood, 43, of Gary.

Though federal court records filed last week by Teddia Caldwell do not detail the level of information Barnes-Caldwell allegedly leaked, Cliff Caldwell said leaks about open investigations and looming search warrants could prove “very dangerous for police officers working these cases and working these streets.”

He said he wants Barnes-Caldwell to step aside as chair of the council’s public safety committee, where she oversees ordinances and financial appropriations related to EMS, police and fire, such as funding for overtime.

“It’s very dangerous when a person privy to confidential law enforcement information leaks that out. You put a lot of people at risk,” he told The Times. 

Court records filed Friday in U.S. District Court show an informant sat down with federal investigators in September 2017 to help them untangle a drug trafficking enterprise allegedly operated by Caldwell.

It was during that same interview the informant dropped the bombshell that Caldwell sometimes received inside information from Barnes-Caldwell and her son, Morris Smoot, a Cedar Lake patrolman, records state.

Teddia Caldwell is charged with eight other defendants in the violent drug trafficking conspiracy case.

Cliff Caldwell has worked for the Lake County Sheriff’s Department since July 2016. He also worked four years for Indiana University Northwest’s police force and state police from 2010 to 2012.

Caldwell told the Times his main interest is as a lifelong Gary resident who lives in Barnes-Caldwell’s district, but also as an officer who “believes in transparency and integrity.”

He wants Barnes-Caldwell to step down from her committee role, at least until more is understood about the allegations against her.

“At the very least, while this is being investigated or further looked into, Barnes-Caldwell should not be in charge of anything related to public safety in the city,” he said. "Who knows? They may be disproven."

Spokespeople for the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice said Friday they could neither confirm nor deny if there were ongoing investigations involving Smoot or Barnes-Caldwell.

Barnes-Caldwell said she does not plan to step down from her role as public safety chair unless her council colleagues ask her to.

“And they have not,” she said. Brewer said he was only briefed of the allegations Tuesday night but planned to review them.

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Northlake County Reporter

Lauren covers North Lake County government, breaking news, crime and environmental issues for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.