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East Lansing City Council, including Mayor Ron Bacon, accused of unethical behavior in anonymous complaint

April 25, 2023
Left to right, Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg, Mayor Ron Bacon, and Councilmember Dana Watson, listen during public comment of the East Lansing City Council meeting at the Hannah Community Center in East Lansing on Sept. 6, 2022. “There’s no peace coming out of this decision (from Attorney Genera Dana Nessel),” Bacon said. “But we will continue our work on reform.” Those who commented on East Lansing policing focused on the shooting of DeAnthony VanAtten in April of this year.
Left to right, Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg, Mayor Ron Bacon, and Councilmember Dana Watson, listen during public comment of the East Lansing City Council meeting at the Hannah Community Center in East Lansing on Sept. 6, 2022. “There’s no peace coming out of this decision (from Attorney Genera Dana Nessel),” Bacon said. “But we will continue our work on reform.” Those who commented on East Lansing policing focused on the shooting of DeAnthony VanAtten in April of this year. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

The East Lansing City Council is facing an anonymous complaint citing unethical behavior and breach of the city charter.

In a letter received by interim human resources Director Emily Kenney and interim city clerk Marie Wicks, an “Anonymous Public Servant” claimed Mayor Ron Bacon, Mayor Pro Tem Jessey Gregg and Councilmember Dana Watson are at fault for recent resignations from city officials.

In a statement made Monday by the East Lansing City Council, including all members of the executive board, the city will be opening an investigation relative to the complaints.

“While we have no reason to believe these allegations are accurate, we feel this is an appropriate time to pursue a transparent, outside, third-party review of these allegations in a confidential manner for current and former employees as we continue to work to modernize our City of East Lansing government,” councilmembers said in the statement.

The anonymous letter writer said the departure of former and long-time City Manager George Lahanas was “politically motivated,” alongside questioning new budgeting processes through official’s salaries.

“For many on the outside this might seem like a new direction, but for staff the concern is that the City will continue to lose competent professionals with institutional memory and replace them with fresh staff who will be paid more to be less productive, but who are likely to be more pliable to the will of select Council members,” the letter writer said.

Additionally, the complainant mentioned connections between the city's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director Elaine Hardy and members of the Council as cause for unethical behavior and breach of the city charter, alongside additional accusations surrounding internal operations made by the writer.

“Elaine and Mayor Bacon, as well as other members of Council, appear to have long standing friendships, which is fine in principle,” the letter writer said. “However, the impression for City staff is those friendships are being used as a false pretext for the Mayor to ignore the Charter and go around the City Manager to try to influence personnel decisions in the City.”

The letter writer also blamed Hardy for an unspecified individual’s resignation, stating that the official had in fact been “receiving a threat from Elaine” by which was causation for their departure from an “executive-level” position.

“Progress in DEI should be made without resorting to tactics of manipulation and bullying, but I believe that while Elaine is the Director of the City’s DEI Department, and she maintains such close personal relationships with members of Council, and enables them to violate the Charter, that the true work of DEI cannot occur, and conditions in the City will only continue to worsen,” the letter writer said. “With each round of resignations the City loses valuable employees, whose knowledge and experience is going to be sorely missed.”

The writer concluded by asking for an investigation into their complaints against the East Lansing City Council and mentioned officials detailed throughout the letter, calling for “an independent/neutral third party” to take the case.

“If any or all of the concerns expressed in this complaint are substantiated then we request this third party also make recommendations about measures that can be taken to mitigate and deal with the matters at hand," the letter writer said.

The letter writer pointed to the appointment of City Attorney Anthony Chubb as an example of "poor management on the part of City Council."

The Councilmembers, in the statement, said they will be hiring a third party investigator and that after 90 days, inquiring about the status of the investigation.

“Therefore, it is our intention to inquire about the status of the review approximately 90 days after it begins, if a final report has not been completed by that time,” councilmembers said. “We will consider extending the timeframe if it is deemed necessary at that time. The final report will be shared with the public in the most transparent way allowed.”

Bacon and East Lansing communications specialist Carrie Sampson were unavailable for comment at time of publication.

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