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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Kids in the Hall

Yorko doesn’t think Council should have met in closed session over computer usage; marketing Waverly Golf Course; and bid transparency ordinance stalls

by Andy Balaskovitz
Monday, Feb. 11 — What started out as a discussion in closed session — then on to a four-member City Council committee — has now emerged before the full Council dais.

After Lansing City Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar alleged last week that a few of her colleagues (namely Brian Jeffries and Carol Wood) launched a “politically motivated witch hunt” against her over a broken laptop computer, one of her colleagues jumped to her defense tonight at the beginning of the Council’s meeting.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko wondered why the Council met in closed session in early January to discuss computer usage and why the Personnel Committee, chaired by 3rd Ward Councilwoman A’Lynne Boles-Robinson, is amending the Council’s computer usage policy. Yorko wondered whether it should be taken up in Committee of the Whole.

“There’s an issue we’ve been dealing with in closed session that I don’t think we should be dealing with in closed session,” Yorko said tonight from the dais. “You can correct me or we can debate this later. … When receiving a legal opinion from our city attorney, I don’t know why we’d be doing that in closed session.”

Boles-Robinson did not address the closed session, but said issues taken up in committee are at the discretion of that committee chair. Jeffries, Wood and Jody Washington also serve on Personnel Committee.

“I find it very curious a Council member hadn’t talked to the Council member chair but did so on the floor,” Boles-Robinson said, referring to Yorko’s question in public rather than in private. “We have a policy that is antiquated and in my opinion hasn’t been addressed in many years.”

Dunbar, reading from a prepared speech at the dais, said “several Council members up here have made it their mission to paint me in an imaginary scandal to hide their intention and fuel public speculation that I have done something illegal or unethical.

“I did not request the closed session. … I have behaved on the assumption it was a legitimate closed session.”

Dunbar broke from her script as Boles-Robinson made smiling gestures and muttered words under her breath. “I’m glad you find this amusing — keep laughing,” she said to Boles-Robinson.

Boles-Robinson defended the Personnel Committee’s meetings this year, saying they were not specifically about her, but rather the need to update the Council’s computer usage policy.

Stay tuned for more on this story in Wednesday’s City Pulse.

In other business, the Council unanimously approved a resolution to market the sale of more than 120 acres of green space in Lansing Township. The former Waverly Golf Course and adjacent Michigan Avenue Park will now go on the market to be sold. Jeffries, who chairs the Development and Planning Committee that oversaw the resolution, likened the move to “putting a for-sale sign on the property.”

In stalled Council business tonight, the Council voted down introducing a new ordinance that would require developers to be more transparent when issuing bids for projects that receive tax incentives. The vote would have set a public hearing for Feb. 25 on the new ordinance. It was voted down 4-3 with Dunbar, Yorko and Tina Houghton objecting because they felt some language needed to be clarified in committee. More on the proposed ordinance here.
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