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Organizer vows to try again after commission blocks recall language to unseat Betz

Lansing City Council Member Brandon Betz
Brandon Betz
City of Lansing
Lansing City Council Member Brandon Betz.

A drive to recall Lansing City Council Member Brandon Betz hit a road block Monday when Ingham County's Election Commission rejected petition language.

That’s because commissioners determined the person who submitted the language, Undra Brown, wasn’t registered in Betz’s northeast Lansing ward at time the language was filed.

Betz, a Ward 1 representative, came under fire earlier this year for sending profane and combative text message to Black Lives Matter activist Michael Lynn Jr.

Betz, 30, remains on the council despite multiple calls for his resignation.

Brown said he moved from the city's 4th Ward to Ward 1 this summer and that he believed his voter registration switched to Ward 1 when he updated the address on his license.

Voter registration gets updated when someone changes their license address, according to the Michigan Secretary of State's website.

But that's not what Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum's records show for Brown. She told the commission his registration didn't update to Ward 1 until shortly after he filed the petition.

Brown told the commission he visited Lansing's city clerk's office to double-check his registration after filing the language; that appears to be when his registration change took effect.

In a phone interview Monday afternoon, Brown called the denial political and says he or another organizer will be submitting alternate recall language shortly. Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Richard Garcia, a member of the commission, advised Brown Monday to revise "unclear" language if he submits another version.

A recall election could happen in May if an approved petition nets just over 2,400 signatures from registered voters.

Betz has just over two years left in a four-year term and is earning a $26,356
annual salary as a part-time City Council member. He still has voting power at regular meetings, but can no longer serve on committees after the rest of the council agreed to strip Betz's committee assignments as a show of disapproval in response to Betz's "unbecoming" and "inflammatory" conduct toward Lynn.

"We're paying this man a salary when he literally cannot influence policy," Brown said. "His unprofessionalism has impacted his ability to serve."

Betz called Monday's denial a "win" for the 1st Ward and the city.

"I will continue to do my work now until the end of my term," Betz said.

He accused the petition backers of being "Republican operatives trying to change elections just like they did with Donald Trump."

Lansing's elections are nonpartisan but Betz ran as a progressive with the endorsement of Greater Lansing's chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Both the DSA and the Ingham County Democratic Party have since condemned Betz's actions.

Brown said the recall is being driven by bipartisan concerned citizens. He works for the Rogue Strategy Group, a political consulting group led by Republican Scott Hagerstrom.

Hagerstrom appeared during the commission meeting as Brown's attorney. Hagerstrom was among the pro-Trump attorneys sanctioned by a federal judge for filing a "frivolous" lawsuit alleging fraud during the 2020 presidential election.

Along with Brown, the other organizer listed on a website backing the recall is Elizabeth Abdnour, an attorney specializing in Title IX law.

"I am not a Republican," Abdnour said with a laugh. "I have voted Democrat in every election since I have been able to vote."

Abdnour added, "(Betz) has basically made such a spectacle of himself and been so incompetent that, in my opinion, he can no longer be effective as a ward representative."

At one point, Abdnour was giving Lynn, a former Lansing firefighter, legal representation in an employment dispute with the city.

Sarah Lehr is a state government reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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