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City Council voted to create a report addressing eBay land sale

January 12, 2020
Lisa Babcock speaks during ASMSU’s East Lansing City Council candidate debate on Oct. 14, 2019 at the International Center.
Lisa Babcock speaks during ASMSU’s East Lansing City Council candidate debate on Oct. 14, 2019 at the International Center. —
Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

East Lansing City Council voted to create a report on the controversial eBay land sale at the Jan. 7 meeting.

The land, which is on Merritt Road to be used for a hotel, a marijuana dispensary and a retail strip divided into five suites, was sold on eBay for $1,000,000.

The auction was not advertised, instead a list of bidders were notified by city staff. This disturbed Council Member Lisa Babcock, who proposed creating the report.

"A lot of this information has probably been given to different people at different times but is not in one place," Babcock said. "So, we put it in one place, we have it to refer to, we learn, we move on."

Though the auction was overseen by the planning commission, the eBay land sale has been a source of public distrust in City Council. In the Nov. 5 election two newcomers, Babcock and Council Member Jessy Gregg, were overwhelmingly elected running on a platform of transparency.

Council Member Mark Meadows, who was reelected, said he was asked a lot of questions about the land sale when he was going door to door during election season.

"This is an important instruction about an important issue that the public has essentially weighed in on as being a very important thing for them to receive information with regard to," Meadows said.

Meadows said if the public has questions about the land sale, those should be reflected in the report and there should be a public discussion following its release.

Mayor Ruth Beier, the lone vote against creating the report, said it was "Accusatory" and would "Create a feeling of fear" among staff.

"Nobody's on trial here, and this is what this makes me feel like," Beier said.

Beier said a report won't change what the city staff already knows.

"The problem was we didn't notify the world, we should have," Beier said. "Everybody already acknowledges that mistake and doing an investigation isn't going to change that conclusion," Beier said.

Beier said the only reason to make a report like this would be if there were suspicion of criminal activity.

In her email requesting the report be made, Babcock said, "I do not want city employees to fear punitive criminal
charges."

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