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Lansing councilmember is target of complaint alleging unethical behavior

 A headshot of Lansing At-Large Councilmember Jeffrey Brown.
City of Lansing
Several city officials alleged Councilmember Brown requested financial payments for a constituent from a property developer and housing official in exchange for policy votes.

The city of Lansing’s Board of Ethics is set to formally weigh in Tuesday evening on a complaint regarding At-Large Councilmember Jeffrey Brown after an external review found he violated ethics rules.

Several city officials submitted a complaintin March with three allegations: that Brown said he would support the Ovation project if the developer or Lansing Mayor Andy Schor paid the rent of a constituent; that he would support the Lansing Housing Commission if an official paid a tenant's fees; and that he overstepped his authority by directly requesting federal funding for local projects from Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin’s office.

The complaint was first reported in the Lansing City Pulse.

Lansing’s Ethics Ordinance prohibits officers of the city from soliciting financial payments or contributions to sway their official votes or actions.

It also states officials should not claim their personal opinions or actions represent the official position of the city or of governmental bodies in which they are members, including the Council.

An independent investigation by Southfield attorney Gouri G. Sashital could not verify the first allegation. But the investigation did find Brown’s actions related to the other two allegations violated the ordinance.

Brown's attorneys denied he engaged in wrongful activity.

"A rookie member of the City Council, Dr. Brown is not afraid to take on the status quo to benefit the citizens of Lansing," the attorneys wrote. "As the saying goes, 'No good deed goes unpunished,' and Dr. Brown’s good deeds to protect Lansing are certainly being punished by the mere filing of a frivolous Ethics Complaint signed by the Mayor and a majority of the City Council."

Now, the city’s ethics board will determine Tuesday evening whether the complaint should be dropped or if it should be referred to the City Attorney for a criminal inquiry or the City Council.

If the Council receives the complaint, Brown could face condemnation and possible expulsion.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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