As the City of East Lansing faces instability from so many resignations by heads of departments, Councilmember George Brookover is now pushing the idea of having councilmembers sit in on the hiring of top staff. He has put the matter on Council’s agenda for Tuesday night (March 14).
ELi reported that, at Council last week, Mayor Ron Bacon and Interim City Manager Randy Talifarro both addressed the wave of resignations.
“I don’t get a lot of anxiety when small things happen in the grand scheme of things,” Bacon said, “because East Lansing tends to stick up for itself.”
Reading from a prepared statement, Talifarro struck a different tone. He thanked the departing employees for their hard work and acknowledged the challenges posed by their leaving. But, he ended on an upbeat note.
“I am confident that services will continue to be provided at a high level to our community,” Talifarro said. “I want to reassure our residents of this fact.”
Nevertheless, Brookover responded with concern, saying he wanted to put on Council’s agenda for this week “the process by which we’re going to pursue these appointments for the staff vacancies.”
Brookover specified he wants two council members in the “final interviews…for people who are being considered for these appointments.”
“I just think that the process has been unclear,” Brookover said. “My understanding, at least in part, is that there’s some concern about communication under the past administration and it just seems to me this would be a good way to make sure we have effective communication as we make these choices.”
Bacon agreed to put it on the agenda, and it’s now listed under “discussion items.”
The City Charter addresses the issue of Council’s involvement in the daily operations of the City, terming those daily operations “the administrative service.”
Section 7.1.e of the Charter reads, “Except as otherwise required in subsection 7.1.a, neither the Council nor any of its members or committees shall in any manner interfere with the City Manager in the exercising of his or her judgment in the appointment or assignment of administrative officers and employees in the administrative service.”
The Charter continues, “Neither the Council nor any member thereof shall give orders to any of the subordinates of the City Manager.”
But Section 7.1.a indicates the city manager should consult with Council before appointing a city clerk, treasurer, chief financial officer, assessor, city engineer, chief of police, human resource manager, fire chief, “and any other administrative officer established by the Council” as allowed by the charter.
The wave of resignations is unlike anything seen before in the City of East Lansing. While rumors and anonymous tips persist about a possible common thread, ELi has been unable to confirm them so far.
Tomorrow’s agenda also includes Council making a decision on the Valley Court Park renovations and discussing the regulation of small cell tower installations. In addition, Council will be discussing whether to raise the special downtown tax that supports the work of the Downtown Management Board.