Following Deliberations, ELi’s Board Takes Action on Leadership Concern

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ELi is not a typical news organization. It exists as a nonprofit organization in order to provide a nonpartisan public news service to the people of East Lansing. The goal of ELi has never been to make money, to build an empire, or to achieve some political aim. It has been to make sure the people who live, work, retire, go to school, do business, govern, visit, and play in East Lansing are able to know what is going on here. In this way, ELi has aimed fundamentally to be a socially responsible local news provider.

ELi is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors whose fiduciary responsibility is to the people of this community. Our job as the ELi Board of Directors is to oversee and support an organization that produces trustworthy, factual news. We are responsible to the community.

On July 7, we communicated with you regarding a leadership crisis at ELi. As promised in that communication, ELi convened a Rapid Response Team (RRT) to examine the issue raised by readers, specifically ELi Board member and Interim Executive Director Anne Hill’s collaboration with Pure Integrity for Michigan Elections (PIME), a group that has used Hill’s research into East Lansing elections to throw doubt on the legitimacy of elections here and statewide.

ELi’s RRT was chaired by Board member Cody Harrell and included Board members Chuck Grigsby, Amalia Medina, and Ray Vlasin. The RRT met with Hill on July 18 to discuss concerns and also consulted with ELi founder Alice Dreger and Chris Root, both of whom have reported for ELi for many years on elections.

ELi is a nonpartisan organization and values political diversity as a key form of diversity within our community. ELi’s Boards have historically included members from different places on the political spectrum. We have valued Anne Hill’s participation in ELi while she has brought a politically conservative viewpoint, as it has increased political diversity on the Board. We are not for the political right or left, but for the goal of providing accurate information that is factually based, that is provided with appropriate background and context, reviewed meticulously for accuracy.

The concern the RRT and Board have is not Hill’s conservatism. It is the use of her work, with her ongoing tacit permission, by organizations that engage in disinformation about elections. Whether this were being done by an organization on the left or the right, we would find it deeply troubling.

In addition to Hill’s work on East Lansing elections being used by PIME, it has also been used by the Election Integrity Fund and Election Integrity Force, teamed nonprofits that throw doubt on the integrity of elections. The names of these two allied groups appear on the cover of Anne Hill’s “Lights Out: Voter Roll Anomalies during the 2020 Election, East Lansing, Michigan” report published in May 2022, and the Election Integrity Force has used that report to continue to suggest the results of the 2020 election in Michigan are in question. 

ELi Board members were not aware of Hill’s report published in May 2022 or how it was being used until members of the East Lansing community brought it to our attention at the end of June.

The “EIF Communications Team” wrote on March 1, 2022 (linked to from a March 2 post on the Election Integrity Fund & Force Facebook page):  “… there can be no remedy for the men and women who are culpable for the current corrupted state of our election processes, other than to say that their actions border on treason.” They go on to say: “At every step of the way, vulnerabilities have been built in to make the entire election systems in the United States unusable for any future elections, and the sooner We the People demand an end to the entire elections system, the sooner we might be able to actually Save Our American Republic.” 

The assertion that the only way to fix the election system in the United States is to demand an “end to the entire elections system” based on illegitimate claims that those who work in those systems conduct “actions [that] border on treason” creates a conclusion that is not fact-based, but is sensationalist.

We note that just a few days ago, six widely-respected conservative Republicans published “LOST, NOT STOLEN: The Conservative Case that Trump Lost and Biden Won the 2020 Presidential Election,” an original 72-page report that reviewed all 64 legal cases of alleged fraud or misconduct containing 187 counts in the six key battleground states, including nine cases in Michigan. One of those cases was brought by the Election Integrity Fund.

The “Lost, Not Stolen” report concluded that “there is absolutely no evidence of fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election on the magnitude necessary to shift the result in any state, let alone the nation as a whole. In fact, there was no fraud that changed the outcome in even a single precinct.” They went on to say: “If [very serious charges made by Trump and his supporters are] not true, that must be said because such false charges corrode our democracy and leave a significant share of the population doubting the legitimacy of our system, seriously weakening the country.” 

We acknowledge that Hill has a constitutional right as a citizen to use the channels open to all to better understand and question the state of the voter file in East Lansing and beyond. However, tacitly allowing use of that research by groups that engage in continued attempts to subvert an election process already well established by so many courts and researchers to be legitimate necessarily strains the trust of those who seek a common commitment on the board and in the organization to establish the truth. Additionally, it strains the board’s trust with the community, and that is something that we cannot in good faith do when so many rely on all levels of ELi to represent the truth. 

Democracy depends on the pursuit of facts beyond partisan loyalties and personal relationships. So, while it pains us personally and as a Board to undertake removal of a community member from the ELi Board of Directors, on July 19th the Board has voted to do so under ELi’s Bylaws, approving a motion made “because members of the Board have lost faith in that collaborative relationship.” Hill was also removed as Interim Executive Director. We thank Anne sincerely for her service to ELi and the many contributions she has made to the organization and the community and wish her well.

ELi’s Board will now undertake consideration of a new policy requiring potential and active Board members to disclose their relationships with groups that are politically active. That said, we are not interested in having anything that smacks of a political litmus test for participation in ELi at any level. The board intends to seek out new members that help keep the board politically well-rounded as we maintain our commitment to fact-based reporting, regardless of affiliation.

The Board would like to remind the community that the ELi team is working on attempting to restart local reporting soon and that we are currently accepting applications for a new Managing Editor. We are excited by the interest already expressed by some in this position and encourage all to share the announcement of the job opening. We expect also to bring you an update soon from the ELi Task Force, which is working on recommendations for the relaunch. 

Updated for correction 8:36 PM, July 21st 2022: Hill was removed from both the Board of Directors and as interim Executive Director. This article has been updated to reflect that fact.

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