In what’s become a fairly regular occurrence, ELi received an anonymous tip this afternoon of another major resignation from the City of East Lansing’s workforce.
This time it’s Peter Menser. Menser has been functioning as the Interim Director of Planning, a department that encompasses five units: Building and Permits; Community and Economic Development; Planning and Zoning; Parking; and Rental Housing.
Menser is leaving to take a position with Delta Township.
The city’s plan is reported by sources to be to temporarily bring in East Lansing’s former director of planning Tim Dempsey, who left the city in 2019 to become a vice president with the private consulting firm Public Sector Consultants.
When he left in 2019, Dempsey had been succeeded by Tom Fehrenbach. But Fehrenbach just resigned in January to take a job with the State of Michigan.
The city will have to now search for a new director of planning – something that will be challenging since the director of human resources and then the interim director of human resources both also recently quit.
Menser’s departure adds to the recent pattern in the City of East Lansing of having two layers of top administrators quit in single departments. Besides this happening in the Planning Department with Fehrenbach’s and now Menser’s departures, and also happening in the HR department with the departure of Shelli Neumann and Ben Dawson, it also happened in the City Clerk’s office, where both Clerk Jennifer Shuster and Deputy Clerk Kathryn Garner quit at about the same time.
While the police department still has Chief Kim Johnson at the helm, ELi reported last week that Deputy Police Chief Chad Connelly’s has tendered his resignation.
In a message to his colleagues, Connelly wrote, “My reasons for leaving are varied, but I would be remiss not to emphasize that the turmoil at the governmental level, and what I perceive to be unethical leadership and personnel decisions, outside of the police department are major contributing factors.”
The Planning Department will be especially hard hit with Menser’s departure. It has also recently lost Community and Economic Development Administrator Adam Cummins and Senior Planner Darcy Schmitt. Additionally, Lizzie Fredrick, the city’s Community and Economic Development Associate, is leaving to take a job as director of Owosso’s downtown development agency.
Menser came to East Lansing in the spring of 2021 from Meridian Township, hired on as the city’s planning and zoning administrator. He has working closely with the Planning Commission on efforts to clean up East Lansing’s unusually complicated zoning code.
“He’s really going to be missed,” Planning Commission Chair Joseph Sullivan told ELi when reached for comment. “He’s somebody that is a very engaging personality, energetic, professional, always very responsive to us.”
Sullivan noted that Menser had been working with the Planning Commission on such issues as a test of the form-based code.
He has also been shepherding plans for renovations to Valley Court Park using a possible $1 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). The agreement with the MEDC requires a grant agreement to be hammered out by March 15. But the design for adding a large pavilion to the park has remained controversial at the local level. It’s unclear what happens with that next given the turmoil.
In the anonymous tip received by ELi this afternoon, the source wrote, “Usually ELi announces these administrative staff changes before administration formally tells staff. Thank you for your work!”
ELi has reached out to Interim City Manager Randy Talifarro and his staff for a comment, and will add that to this article if a response is received. Talifarro is interim city manager because the city council terminated the contract with City Manager George Lahanas in mid-January.
Council plans to discuss the hiring of a new city manager at tomorrow night’s meeting.
Why all the turmoil? On that question, ELi has obtained only unsubstantiated rumors through our contact portal.