LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – A Lansing City Councilmember is demanding city code officials review all photos contained in the city’s software system.
The demand comes after Ryan Kost stumbled on a second controversial image of a citizen apparently uploaded to the city’s property database, BS&A. He was verifying code officials were addressing concerns forwarded to them about the property in question.
The second code enforcement officer has been referred to the Human Resources department over photos as well says Scott Bean, the city’s spokesman.
“The least we can do is go through the backend of the BS&A and make sure there’s no other photos like these,” says Kost, who represents the city’s eastside.
This is the second time in less than a week officials have discovered Lansing Code Compliance Officers have been referred to the Human Resources Department for a potential investigation related to uploading photos in the city’s property software.
The first one, reported by 6 News last week, came to the city’s attention when through an anonymous email complaint to City Council. The emailer alleged a code officer would take pictures of corpses found in properties over the course of code enforcement actions. Then the officer would share those photos with friends and family as well as co-workers. The photos were also uploaded to the city’s property database.
This time, instead of pictures of dead bodies, a second official took a picture of a homeowner identified in notes as “heavily medicated and unresponsive.” The officer was at the home at in May 2022 at the request of Lansing Police.
“I was horrified,” Kost says. “It’s unacceptable. It’s a total disregard for our citizens.”
The man in the photo was later assigned a guardian by the courts in Ingham County. Guardians are appointed when a person has been deemed unable to care for him or herself. The legal designation is the person is “incapacitated.”
Notes in the BS&A database show officials at Code Compliance were in communication with a social worker from Community Mental Health, and then an appointed guardian for the man. The software is designed to track building issues, code violations and monitor properties.
The home was red-tagged because of unsanitary conditions the same day the photo was taken.
Kost is demanding a review of the database. “The least we can do is go through the backend of the BS&A and make sure there’s no other photos like these.”
As for the controversy over photos, Kost is frustrated.
“I guess we can’t teach common sense and human decency,” the councilman says. “If we don’t already, I guess we need a policy at the least.”
City Spokesman Scott Bean says the city is aware of this new report and has referred the employee to Human Resources but can’t comment on personnel matters beyond that.
As for any policies related to taking pictures of people – dead, unresponsive or otherwise – and uploading them into city databases, Bean says a review is ongoing to determine what, if any, policies exist.
“We have to do better as a city,” says Kost. “I know it, the mayor knows it. City Council knows it.”