More than a month after the 3-2 vote to appoint former Saginaw County Controller Robert Belleman as East Lansing City Manager, there is a proposed contract to be voted on at the Tuesday (Sept. 19) City Council meeting.
The contract, which is attached to the Tuesday meeting agenda, was signed by Belleman Thursday (Sept. 14). It stipulates a starting salary of $180,000, an automobile allowance of $3,600 annually and a monthly $400 line of credit to pay for job-related expenses.
The starting pay is higher than the $167,000 former City Manager George Lahanas earned at the start of his 2020 contract, though annual increases would have put Lahanas’ 2023-2024 salary at $176,000. Lahanas’ contract included the same allowances for automobiles and general expenses.
If approved by Council, Belleman’s stint as city manager will begin Monday, Sept. 25 and run through Sept. 26, 2025.
Notably, the contract includes a potential severance package that includes 12 months pay. If Belleman was to start a new job outside East Lansing during that period, the payments would “be mitigated by subtracting the dollar value of wages and benefits Manager receives from other employment.” The contract states the severance would be no less than six months pay.
There are four separate clauses that would also trigger severance payments:
“(i) Manager’s employment is involuntarily terminated during the term of this Contract for any reason other than Manager’s gross malfeasance or death;
(ii) Manager is forced or asked to resign by Council for any reason other than Manager’s gross malfeasance;
(iii) this Contract expires without the Manager and Council entering into another mutually agreeable Employment Contract and with Council having failed to offer Manager a new contract that provides him with at least substantially similar compensation, benefits, severance, and other terms as those contained in this Contract; or
(iv) Manager resigns due to the City or Council’s failure for any reason to pay him the full salary specified in Paragraph 2 of this Contract.”
Notably, clause three indicates a severance package could be owed if Council declines to offer Belleman a similar contract in 2025. Lahanas’ last contract included the same clauses to trigger severance payments.
Belleman will receive 10 days of paid time off for the remainder of 2023 and will receive 30 days of paid time off annually starting in 2024.
The decision to hire Belleman has been controversial.
Belleman comes with baggage as he was removed from his last job in Saginaw County after claims surfaced he created a toxic workplace.
If Council votes to approve Belleman’s contract, it will do so hoping similar issues do not arise in East Lansing, as the loss of top level employees has been a large concern in city government.
Council’s decision to appoint Belleman came despite overwhelming support from staff members and city residents for Interim Director of Planning, Building & Development and former Deputy City Manager Tim Dempsey.