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Wednesday, June 15,2011

Off the board

An Ingham County commissioner serving on the city’s Public Service Board claims he wasn’t notified his seat was filled by someone else

by Andy Balaskovitz

Lansing City Councilwoman Carol Wood recognized an Ingham
County commissioner in the audience at a June 6 Committee of the Whole
meeting as it was about to end. She asked the commissioner from the dais
if he had anything to say to the Council.


Dale Copedge, the commissioner in the audience, thanked
the city for letting him be a member of the Public Service Board for
nearly 15 years. “I felt I have been able to contribute to that
particular committee.”


Then he added: “I wish there was another way you could have informed me (my term ended),” he told the Council.


Did someone forget to tell Copedge he was replaced on the
city’s Public Service Board, which he served on for nearly 15 years?
That responsibility falls on the Bernero administration, which
recommends appointments and reappointments to various boards and
authorities.


On May 23, the Council unanimously appointed Cleophus
Anderson to the board for a 3rd Ward term to expire June 30, 2015, based
on a recommendation from the mayor’s office. Copedge said he was
notified by Wood that his position was filled by someone else. He said
he didn’t get a notification the administration claims to have mailed to
him.


An administration spokesman said the mayor is entitled to
replace people on boards but that should not be interpreted as
“dissatisfaction.” The administration also said it’s a good idea to keep
new faces coming in.


“Mayor Bernero replaces people on various boards and
commissions from time to time when their term of office expires, which
is his prerogative under the City Charter. He doesn’t need a reason to
do so and his decision in this or any other case should not be
interpreted as an expression of dissatisfaction with the performance of
the person who formerly held the position,” Randy Hannan, Bernero’s
deputy chief of staff, said in an e-mail.


“It is worth noting that no one is entitled to a certain
position on a certain board, no matter how long they have been there,
and Mayor Bernero believes it is a good idea to bring new faces and new
perspectives to the table where and when he deems it appropriate.”


Hannan also sent City Pulse a copy of a letter dated May
2, which he said “was mailed … thanking him for his service to the City
of Lansing. Like all citizens who volunteer their time on behalf of the
city, his service is greatly appreciated.”


Copedge, who served on the board for three different
mayors since 1996 and works full-time as a senior environmental engineer
with the state Department of Environmental Quality, claimed he never
got the letter.


“I wasn’t notified,” he said. “They may say different.”


Copedge would not speculate on whether he was not
reappointed because the mayor doesn’t like him. When asked how his
relationship is with Bernero, Copedge said: “No comment. We talk every
now and then when we see each other.”


The Public Service Board is an advisory board that reviews
infrastructure issues before City Council, including sewer separation,
road repairs and sidewalk projects. Positions on the board are unpaid
and terms last four years. The City Charter does not restrict how long
you can serve on an advisory board.


Copedge said he serves various boards in the region,
including Capital Area Michigan Works, Mid-South Substance Abuse
Commission and the Boy Scouts. He said this is the first time his
position has been filled on a board without his being notified.


“Usually you’re notified that your term has expired,” he said.


The City Council receives recommendations for boards and commissions from the mayor and then votes to approve.


Jessica Yorko, who chairs the Public Service Committee and
reviewed Anderson’s appointment to Copedge’s position, said she was
told by the administration that the letter to Copedge was mailed and all
was fine. 


“It was confusing to me that he didn’t feel notified,” she said, “because (Hannan) said we did notify.”


Yorko also said that while she is unclear whether Copedge
actually received the letter, it’s “my understanding you would (serve) a
few times and then do something else. I don’t know if people typically
serve on boards longer than two or three terms. It’s the philosophy of
whether to keep it fresh or retaining institutional knowledge on the
board.”


Yorko said she served for two years on the board before being elected to City Council in 2009.


While Copedge would not comment on whether his working
relationship with the mayor may have influenced his position being
filled, he said he’s open to coming back.


“I’m not going after anybody.” Copedge said. “If there is an opportunity to serve again, I’d be happy to do it.”

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