The East Lansing City Council moved to terminate City Manager George Lahanas’ employment contract with the city and voted former Lansing police Lt. Noel Garcia Jr. to fill in the council’s vacancy during their meeting Tuesday.
Lahanas, who has been city manager for almost 11 years, will no longer serve in the position following a separation agreement voted on by the board and signed by Lahanas himself.
When discussing the agreement, East Lansing Mayor Ron Bacon said there was nothing disparaging in Lahanas’ relationship with the council and the decision was based on the direction of things and what the council wants to see done. He said the agreement was made out of “out of respect.”
“You’re not going to find scandal,” Bacon said.
Retired East Lansing Fire Chief Randy Talifarro will serve as interim city manager effective Wednesday. Talifarro’s contract is valid until July 31, and then his contract will move forward on a month-to-month basis.
Bacon said his emphasis during the upcoming budget season will be public safety, citing Talifarro as a good fit with experience in that regard.
In the vote to fill the council's vacancy, councilmembers initially tied in-favor of candidates Daniel Bollman and Garcia 2-to-2. Following deliberation, the board voted to elect Garcia in a 4-0 vote.
Councilmember Dana Watson said Garcia was her top choice for the position because of his work with the Independent Police Oversight Commission and the comfort his work provided when it came to the council's communication with the East Lansing Police Department.
"Perhaps more bridges can be created during this nine-month timeframe,” Watson said.
Bacon said his top choice was Garcia because of his focus on public safety.
"Regardless of how we look at it, we’re going to grow," Bacon said. "I think that growth has to be managed through public health and safety moving forward. We have to make sure we find a way forward with that public safety apparatus and make sure it’s matching that level of growth."
The council will meet again on Jan. 24 at the Hannah Community Center.