© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Author of draft department restructuring plan in East Lansing rejects claims of impropriety

City of East Lansing

The author of a draft plan to restructure several East Lansing city departments has identified himself. The former city employee disputes claims that officials overstepped their roles when the plan was being developed.

Adam Cummins was the former Community and Economic Development Administrator for East Lansing. He sent a message to the City Council and the non-profit news outlet East Lansing Info Monday stating he authored a draft plan that circulated between officials last fall.

The proposal floated the idea of creating a new Department of Culture, Equity and Placemaking to tie inclusivity with projects for economic growth. If the measures were implemented, the city's Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion would have pulled staff and resources from other departments, including those that oversee planning as well as parks and recreation.

An anonymous complaint alleged Mayor Ron Bacon and other officials violated the East Lansing City Charter by bypassing the city manager to put together the plan.

Cummins says those accusations are false and that he put together the plan without direction from other officials. In a nearly 300-page document attached to the email, which East Lansing Infohas made available online, he lists several other examples of other proposals which were meant to address challenges with generating activity and economic growth downtown.

"My understanding is that the plan referenced in the complaint never made it far enough in the process to warrant further exploration nor solicit stakeholder input," Cummins wrote.

He also says his resignation earlier this year was unrelated to the draft or any concerns detailed in the complaint. He says it was caused by “a difficult work environment."

"I am extremely hopeful that new leadership at the city will result in a work environment more conducive to creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving. The city should encourage and reward its employees to innovate, take initiative to seek new ways of doing things, and bring fresh ideas for solving long-standing problems."

Some officials have said they believe the proposal has contributed to the wave of staff departures in the city in recent months.

Documents obtained by ELi in a Freedom of Information Act request indicate Bacon did send the draft to former City Manager George Lahanas and Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg for their consideration. According to ELi's reporting, Interim Director of Planning Tim Dempsey wrote in an email that the draft explains why concerns have arisen among some staff members.

Others have said the plan was never seriously considered. Gregg wrote in a Facebook post that she and Lahanas both discussed the plan with Bacon and concluded "it didn't have any merit."

"All of the Councilmembers have big ideas about how we could possibly improve the city," she wrote. "Some of them gain traction and most of them don't .. .Freedom to discuss good and bad ideas should be part of the process."

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
Journalism at this station is made possible by donors who value local reporting. Donate today to keep stories like this one coming. It is thanks to your generosity that we can keep this content free and accessible for everyone. Thanks!