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Group Asking East Lansing For In-House Attorney

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A local group is asking for change in the city of East Lansing.

Currently the city has a private contract with an outside law firm, but as Nick Perreault explains the reform group says change will save the city and taxpayers some significant money.

Jeffrey Hank and East Lansing Citizens For a Public Servant City Attorney Group are trying to make their own historic landmark.

"To have eight or nine percent of the voters sign a petition saying they want to change that is quite historic, in fact nothing like this has ever happened before," Group Chairman Jeffrey Hank said.

They've collected over 2200 signatures, almost a thousand more than necessary, to ask voters in November to change the city charter to allow the hire of a public servant attorney.

Currently East Lansing's legal work is done through a private firm.

"You can look at the city of Jackson, Lansing or Ann Arbor, they all have in house city attorney's, why does the city of East Lansing not do it," Hank said.

 The group says an in house attorney works exclusively for the city and save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars a year
and eliminate a potential problem.

"If he does not bring suites, he doesn't get paid for it, so there's an inherit conflict of interest in doing the public's work or whether he is trying to make some money," said Co-Chair Phil Bellfy.

Now the group says this petition drive is nothing personal against the city or those attorneys who represent them, but rather a move that would eliminate
conflict of interest and create something they describe as a more "pro-constituent" model.

"This is primarily directed towards saving the tax payers money into a legal department that the people own," Hank said.

Hank says his own polling shows they have the support for the ordinance change in November,
but if it goes on the ballot and fails, he'll be calling on council to make the change.

The city of East Lansing says they're reviewing the petitions and if they're valid, will abide by the law and put the item on the November ballot.

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