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Monday, March 18,2013

Kids in the Hall

The Council can’t get together for a quorum, will reconvene at 5 tonight. Council President Robinson: “This reflects poorly on all of us.”

by Andy Balaskovitz

This story was updated April 19.


Tuesday, April 19 — Monday’s Lansing City Council meeting was put on hold until 5 p.m. today after the eight-member body failed to reach a quorum.

While it takes at least five members to hold a meeting, strangely, six of the eight members were actually on the 10th floor of City Hall Monday night between 7 and 8 — just not at the same time.

At 7:05 p.m., five minutes after the meeting was supposed to start, At-Large Council members Carol Wood and Brian Jeffries and First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt were ready to go at the dais. Second Ward Councilwoman Tina Houghton arrived about five minutes later. But by the time At-Large Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar arrived at about 7:15 p.m. — which would have made her the fifth and enough for a quorum — Hewitt had ducked out for the night.

Dunbar later said that she had passed Hewitt in the basement of City Hall as she was coming in and he was leaving.

After the four — Wood, Jeffries, Dunbar and Houghton — deliberated with City Attorney Brig Smith on what to do, they decided not to hold public comments or wait for more members to show. Wood made the motion to recess the meeting for a time to be determined.

Council President A’Lynne Robinson arrived at about 8 p.m., but Wood and Jeffries had already left the building. So, six Council members visited the 10th floor Monday night, but there was never a point when five were in the same room together.

But Robinson, who had a “prearranged work-related absence,” wonders why public comment wasn’t started at 7 p.m. She said Jeffries had the authority to lead the meeting because he was the last Council president present. Even if he wasn’t there, Wood could have led it, because she is a past president too, Robinson said. That would have bought some time until Houghton and Dunbar arrived and a quorum was met.


However, Jeffries said that after speaking with Smith, he was not allowed to run the meeting.


"I specifically asked the city attorney if I could start the meeting and I was told I could not," Jeffries said.


“This reflects poorly on all of us,” Robinson said today. “It’s one of the reasons I’m reconvening the meeting so quickly today. I want to apologize to constituents, neighbors, families and friends. Certainly I don’t want this to be the way we function.”

Diana Bitely, City Council administrative secretary, confirmed today that the Council will meet at 5 p.m., followed by a Committee of the Whole meeting.

The Council was scheduled to vote on a revised list of medical marijuana dispensaries allowed to operate in the city; appropriate public, education and government (PEG) fees to the current budget; and accept donated property for the sesquicentennial sculpture. The Council was also scheduled to hold a “question and answer” session with Finance Director Jerry Ambrose on Mayor Virg Bernero’s proposed fiscal year 2012 budget. That business will be taken up today.


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