Early Friday morning (Jan. 12), as East Lansing and much of the midwestern United States prepared for its first winter storm of the year, ELi spoke with City Manager Robert Belleman on the phone as he was making his way to work. We again asked him the questions we’ve heard from our readers with a few inquiries of our own.
Have any new city staff been hired?
If 2023 was the year of high-profile city staff departures, 2024 is looking to be a time of again fleshing out the ranks and filling long-empty positions in city hall.
“We have just hired a project manager in the engineering department,” Belleman said. “And we’ve made an offer to someone for the Prime Time Senior director, they would be starting the 12th or 20th of February.”
Belleman also said interviews are scheduled for candidates for the Director of Planning, Building, and Construction, a position last filled by Tom Feldspauch who resigned in early January 2023. Tim Dempsey stepped in to serve as the interim director, until he left city employment in October.
The city is also working on hiring an associate planner in the coming months who would serve under Principle Planner Landon Bartley.
Speaking of staffing, ELi asked Belleman about the proposals East Lansing Director of Human Resources Emily Kenney called for to study job classification and compensation in the city.
“We received four or five proposals for the work,” Belleman said. “They were due Jan. 5 and Emily is reviewing them now. A recommendation will be brought before Council in the next few weeks.”
Is the city ready for its first big winter storm of the year?
“Absolutely,” Belleman said, brimming with confidence. “It will be taxing if it’s everything they’ve predicted, but we’re ready. We had two meetings yesterday and we have one today. Court 54B closes at noon. City hall may do the same thing depending on the arrival [time of the storm].
“City workers are ready for it.”
Why haven’t meeting minutes from the “private” Nov. 2 meeting of Council been approved?
City Council met in a special meeting on Nov. 2 in a conference room at city hall. The meeting was hastily announced before the public and ELi could make arrangements to be there. The meeting agenda was almost entirely composed of private meetings with City Attorney Anthony Chub, indicating discussion would focus on negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement, the Country Mills Farms lawsuit, and a privileged memo. While items discussed in private meetings with the City Attorney are privileged and discussions wouldn’t be reflected in minutes, any actions the Council takes should appear.
The Council refused to approve the minutes at the Nov. 14 meeting, with Councilmember Mark Meadows asking for more time, saying he hoped to meet with Belleman to discuss the Nov. 2 meeting.
ELi asked Belleman about the delay.
“I don’t know when they want to have those back,” he said. “I will check with the mayor.”
Will the Secontine investigation be made available to the public?
At the Nov. 2 meeting, the Council found “the assertions of charter violations contained within the anonymous complaint were without merit.” Council had hired legal consultant Randy Secontine to investigate the complaint, but decided the investigation findings would not be public because of attorney-client privilege.
“That is a decision that City Council has to make,” Belleman said. “They’re the only ones who can make that move.”
Tuesday Council meeting will be a goal setting session.
Asked if there was any other news he wanted to share with ELi readers, Belleman looked ahead to the coming week.
“Coming into the new year,” he said, “City Council will be hearing from department heads about their goals for the next two years. Council will talk about its own goals at the Tuesday [Jan. 16] meeting, which is discussion only. Discussion will also be starting on the fiscal year 2025 budget.”