East Lansing, Mich. (WLNS)– The City of East Lansing is working to find new legal representation
and fill not one, but two seats on the city council. The search comes after the council voted to fire the city attorney, which led to the resignations of Mayor Ruth Beier and Councilmember Mark Meadows.
Mayor Pro Tem Aaron Stephens has taken up the role of mayor and in a statement sent to 6 News Stephens wrote:
“We accept the resignations of Mayor Beier and Councilmember Meadows and truly appreciate their service and dedication to the City of East Lansing. We have big challenges and big opportunities in East Lansing, and I’m committed to a fair process for appointing qualified council members as soon as possible so we don’t miss a beat and ensure a smooth transition.
COVID-19 continues to present unprecedented challenges in East Lansing, and the new council must maintain our commitment to serving the needs of our community during this public health crisis. Every day we see new examples of racial inequities across the country, and our new council must address these issues in our own community and continue supporting all residents and their opportunity to succeed. The new council must also remain committed to helping local small businesses as they strive to keep their doors open and help workers keep their jobs during these challenging economic times. I am committed to working hand-in-glove with Michigan State University to help ensure a safe return to campus for all Spartans, and it will be key for the council to forge a new and even stronger bond with campus leaders to help them succeed.
I’d like to personally thank and reaffirm my support for City Manager George Lahanas and our city staff and I look forward to working with them as we begin the process of appointing the two new council members. I am truly honored to serve the people of East Lansing and I appreciate the trust you have placed in me. I look forward to serving as your mayor and working with you to continue making East Lansing a great place to live, work and raise a family.”
“I was surprised by the resignations and I was especially disappointed that they happened mid-meeting,” Councilmember Lisa Babcock said adding, “I think there are positive things she’s done on city council and that she did herself a disservice with her departure.”
“I’m disappointed in the way that they left council. I feel like when you’re elected to a position you have a duty to see that position through whether it’s pleasant or not,” Councilmember Jessy Gregg said.
Both Councilmembers told 6 News they don’t feel that East Lansing Attorney Thomas Yeadon is the right person for the changes being made in East Lansing.
“We are embarking on a pretty ambitious I would say realignment of our public safety department. Also working on a pretty dramatic culture shift within the city of East Lansing led by our new diversity equity and inclusion administrator Elaine Hardy,” Gregg said.
She believes Beier and Meadows were more upset about the way things were handled. Yeadon worked for the city for 35 years.
“There was a strong accusation that we did not go about this in the right way. I will definitely own to the fact that we did not go about it in the right way. Mr. Yeadon has a very long term of service with the city and has provided a lot of quality service during that time and my personal conviction that he is not the right partner for the era that we were in does not excuse the fact that I did not give him an opportunity to speak to that,” Gregg said.
Babcock, however said, they did give him that opportunity.
“We gave him three opportunities to resign. Before the agenda came out on Friday, he didn’t do it. It would have been on the agenda but he could have resigned before the meeting on Tuesday and we would have been like ‘we thank you for your service’, or he could have gone into executive session. It was his choice to have the discussion public and in council,” Babcock said. “The mayor complained that we had done it wrong but she had multiple opportunities to suggest how we may have done it differently, and my phone calls to her are still unanswered.”
The council now has 30 days to fill the two vacant seats, which will be done through an application process.
“I would encourage anyone who’s interested to apply for city council. An application will be on the city website, fill it out and then the current city council will interview interested people and then within 30 days, we will have two individuals seated,” Babcock said.
Applicants have to be East Lansing residents and over the age of 18. Students are allowed to apply.
Attorney Yeadon’s contract will expire on October 1st, but he does have an opportunity to leave before that date comes, meaning the city will also have to find new legal counsel fairly quickly.
While Babcock said it’s been a challenging year between the pandemic, police issues, and potential budget challenges, she looks forward to working towards making meaningful change within the city.
“I’m really focusing on moving forward. The city of East Lansing is moving forward. I’ve heard from a lot of folks who also agreed it was time for a change. Change can be messy, change can be painful, but it’s important and we’re going to go forward.”
Beier, Meadows, and Yeadon, did not respond to requests for comment.