East Lansing Info is making publicly available the register of all payments made by the City of East Lansing in fiscal years 2019 (spanning July 2018 through June 2019) and 2020 (spanning July 2019 through June 2020), and we are inviting readers to take a look and let us know what looks interesting or curious to them.
The register doesn’t show all of what the City spends, but it gives a glimpse into the types of spending that occurs each year. We know our readers value open government, so we see this as an opportunity to connect our readers to an interesting “primary source.”
ELi received the register of payments for FY 2020 through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made as part of our goal to better understand what the City is paying for legal services each year. After we noticed that a person named Rachel Vogel, associated with a post office Box in Boca Raton, made a request for a register of payments FY 2019, the ELi team then made its own request for the next fiscal year, too.
Last September, the current City Council selected Foster Swift to assume the new City Attorney contract. One of the justifications for the decision was the belief that, because Foster Swift practices law in more areas than the previous firm engaged, the City would save money by not needing to hire additional outside attorneys, as it has done over the years.
The register of payments is allowing ELi to find payments for legal services, but some other expenditures also caught our eye, such as large sums of money going to Lansing Community College, Lansing Public Schools, and Michigan State University. What were those about, we wondered?
Finance Director Jill Feldpausch explained that the payments to LCC and LPS represented property taxes collected by the City and then remitted to those other local taxing jurisdictions. The payments to MSU were made in conjunction with a series of collaborative grants for MSU Safe Place and the Folk Art Festival, among other things.
Learning this made us realize you can learn a lot about how the City works by looking at the register, and so we decided this was a good opportunity for sharing a lot of data.
The registers include approximately 8,000 distinct payments for each fiscal year. Our reporters are still working to find the entries that seem most important or worthy of further investigation, but we would love to hear from you as you take a look. Which expenses grab your eye or made you want to know more? Let us know!
We have set up this Google form for you to send us comments about the expenses that you would like us to take a deeper look at.
Make sure ELi can continue to report on this issue!