EL City Council pushes back against alleged overreach, commits to independent investigation
The East Lansing City Council is hiring an attorney to conduct an independent investigation into an anonymous complaint alleging officials disregarded the city charter while managing staff.
At the council's special meeting to discuss the budget Tuesday, officials pushed back against allegations of impropriety and committed to supporting a review of the claims.
The author of the complaint, which was sent to the city clerk and human resources department before being released earlier this week, claims the mayor, council members and the director of diversity, equity and inclusion bypassed the city manager to give guidance to city employees. Under East Lansing’s City Charter, the city council is required to go through the city manager to execute policies and personnel decisions.
The complaint says this alleged violation of the charter is "unethical and corrupt in the opinion of many," and it attributes the recent exodus of city employees to this supposed interference.
That includes former City Manager George Lahanas, who was ousted by the council in January. The author of the complaint, who calls themself "Anonymous Public Servant," said Lahanas was removed shortly after he told the council their direct involvement was in violation of the City Charter.
Council members hired Oakland County-based attorney Randall Secontine, to investigate the complaint's allegations and deliver a final report. Officials said they intend to make the findings from his investigation public.
While the group was unified in backing the 3rd party review, some were critical of the complaint and argued it was a veiled attempt to single out individuals based on their identity.
Mayor Ron Bacon issued a rebuke of the complaint and said the author’s words demonstrated racism. Bacon and DEI Director Elaine Hardy are both Black.
The mayor said he’s been quiet about staff departures thus far, but he wants to be more vocal in responding to personal attacks.
"Direct or indirect attacks on the character of members of the staff and their politicization will not be part of how we do business here in East Lansing,” Bacon said.
The complaint also targeted Interim City Manager Randy Talifarro for his approach to management when he was hired.
Talifarro says he welcomes the investigation. But he also suggested the complaint was motivated by racism and lamented the scrutiny it brings to them as the review runs its course.
"It's not lost on me the individuals that were targeted and what they look like," Talifarro said. "These things are not unintentional."
“It's demeaning, it’s insulting, and until good people speak about these issues, it’s continued to be allowed to happen. And personally, it’s sickening.”
A final report on the complaint is due within 90 days.