Mayor Bernero says interim city attorney will stay until further notice


UPDATE: 11:38 p.m. – There will not be a time-limit on how long Interim City Attorney, Joseph Abood will serve the city.

That’s what Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said in a letter to Lansing City Council Members Monday.

This comes just a week after Joseph Abood was given a $30,000 raise from the mayor’s administration, all while controversy over the former city attorney’s payout continues to stay in the spotlight.

In five days, on May 28, Joseph Abood’s position as Interim City Attorney is set to expire, but in a letter Monday, Mayor Virg Bernero said Abood will keep his position indefinitely.

Lansing City Council members approved a 60-day time limit on Joseph Abood’s role with the city back in March, a time-limit Mayor Virg Bernero said in his letter, they don’t have the authority to establish.

He said it’s a violation of the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government and his administration will continue to recognize Joseph Abood as the city’s attorney, until he recommends Abood to council to be the city’s permanent attorney, or appoints someone else.

Lansing City Council President, Judi Brown Clarke reacts to this saying the council used language from the previous resolution with the city’s interim city attorney.

“Our resolution verbatim used the exact same language,” Brown Clarke said. “We thought we were using that as a template and so if what we’re doing right now is counter to anything, so was a previous.”

Since this whole thing started, council members have been pushing for answers to let you, the taxpayers know how their money is being spent, and so have we.

As a news organization, it’s our job to be transparent. By law, we have the right to request public information through The Freedom of Information Act and so far, the city has ignored that right.

6 News has sent two FOIA requests to the city asking for information surrounding Janene McIntyre’s payout. The city asked for a 10-day extension, which expired on May12th, and here we are 11 days later and still nothing.

It turns out; we’re not the only media outlet in town hitting a road block when it comes to getting answers from the city.

Right across town at the Lansing State Journal, Executive Editor, Stephanie Angel said it’s become a problem for them, as well.

“We have filed multiple FOIA’S and what we’re finding is consistent to delays from the city a request from extension followed by no response at all,” Angel said. “Then the question becomes are they just not able to fill them? Do the records not exist? Are they hiding something? And I think that’s a horrible place for us to be in as journalists to try to find that answer, and the horrible place for the city to be in to leave that speculation open to it’s residents of why aren’t you giving the records that have been requested.”

There are also challenges within the Lansing City Council itself on how to move forward.

“There’s a split ya know, what can we gather administratively, versus what is administratively and that’s clearly two different points in what that information is held,” Brown Clarke said. “And so trying to reconcile that and get some clarity is really kind of where we are as far as our challenges right now.”

Stay with 6 News, we will continue our efforts to get our hands on the documents at the center of this issue.

We’ll let you know if and when more developments come.

LANSING, MI (WLNS) – On Monday Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero sent a letter to Lansing City Council president, Judi Brown Clarke and councilmembers stating that he did not place a time limit on Interim Attorney Joseph Abood’s appointment.

Bernero says the time limit for 12:01 a.m. on May 28, 2016 was set by Lansing City Council. He says that the city council does not have the authority to set a time limit, even though it is part of an interim position.

In his letter Bernero says, “I believe this action by City Council to place a condition on a mayoral appointment is a violation of the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of city government and constitutes an impermissible encroachment by the City Council on my administrative authority under Section 4-304.1 of the City Charter.”

Until Bernero changes his mind by appointing a new person to the city attorney position or referring that Abood become the permanent city attorney, he says Abood will stay.

“My administration will continue to recognize Mr. Abood as the city’s interim city attorney until such time as I refer his appointment to Council as permanent city attorney or appoint a different individual to this positon, and I urge Council to do the same,” said Bernero.

6 News Reporter Alexandra Ilitch is working on this story. She’ll have the latest from tonight’s Lansing City Council meeting on 6 News at 11.

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