Following the resignation of two East Lansing City Council members at Tuesday night’s meeting, the three who remain have pledged to move forward while filling the two remaining seats.
The group will also have to choose a new Mayor Pro Tem now that Aaron Stephens has formally moved from that spot to become Mayor of East Lansing.
East Lansing’s City Charter outlines the process for replacing Council members who have resigned. It states that, within 30 days of a vacancy, Council will appoint a replacement who “possesses the qualifications required of Council members” to serve until the next regular election.
The next regular elections for East Lansing City Council are November 2021. Council members must live in East Lansing.
The 30-day clock for selecting two people to replace Ruth Beier and Mark Meadows started Tuesday night, after their formal resignation letters had been submitted to the City Clerk and transmitted to Council.
Beier and Meadows resigned after a 3-2 vote to terminate City Attorney Tom Yeadon’s contract on October 1.
In a Wednesday afternoon press release from the City, it was announced that Council will receive applications for the two vacant seats before holding public interviews.
Details and parameters about the application process have yet to be officially decided. Those will have to be discussed and voted on in a publicly-noticed public meeting of Council.
Stephens told ELi today to expect a special meeting of Council next week to deal with the issue of how to manage appointments.
Wednesday’s press release also noted that a Request for Qualifications/Proposals (RFQ/Ps) for a new City Attorney is in the works.
The fact that these will be appointments to City Council by City Council instead of an election provides a unique opportunity. Someone who might struggle running a door-to-door campaign to win an election — for instance, someone with a physical disability — would have as good a shot in an application process as anyone else, Council Member Lisa Babcock said.
“This is a great time to diversify the Council,” Babcock said told ELi.
Gregg offered a similar sentiment and said she hopes Council can become a place where disagreement is welcomed.
During remarks around his resignation at Tuesday’s meeting, Meadows said as Mayor his goal was always the unanimous vote. Beier never liked disagreeing in public, Gregg added.
“We need to get comfortable with debate. That’s how the best solutions will rise to the top,” Gregg said.
In public statements, remaining Council members vow to keep moving ahead despite the circumstances
Directly following Tuesday’s meeting, Babcock and Gregg posted on their public Facebook pages, offering explanations to what happened and what comes next.
As she did in the meeting, Gregg expressed discomfort at the process by which Council terminated the City Attorney contract but added that changing legal counsel was important for a quickly growing city.
She also countered Beier’s comments about the remaining members of Council “coming for” City Manager George Lahanas next in her original post and in another, separate post.
Gregg has said she was encouraged by Lahanas’ presentation on police realignment and hopes to work closely with him going forward, despite clashing in the past and during her campaign.
“I do not have any plans to move against our City Manager,” Gregg wrote. “I feel that any further change in leadership would be a massive step backwards on the positive changes that we have been working on up until now.”
Both Babcock and Gregg did directly address what they thought was Beier and Meadows cutting and running when matters didn’t go their way.
“While it would be gracious to thank them for their service,” Babcock wrote, “their departure undermines their stated commitments to the city.”
“I also think it’s extremely irresponsible of two people who ran for elected office to vacate their seats because they found themselves on the losing side of a vote that they didn’t agree with,” Gregg wrote.
In his first press release as Mayor, Aaron Stephens stayed brief and looked ahead.
After acknowledging the resignations and need for new Council members, he moved on to important matters, like COVID-19 and related economic strife plus the return of tens of thousands of Michigan State University students in the fall and issues of racial inequities. He also reaffirmed support for Lahanas.
“I look forward to serving as your mayor and working with you to continue making East Lansing a great place to live, work and raise a family,” Stephens finished the statement.
The final point was echoed by Gregg at the end of her Facebook post.
She wrote, “If you do not agree with me and you would like to see things done differently in the future there are two seats available on the East Lansing City Council, [and] you should apply to serve.”