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Wednesday, January 29,2014

Dais shuffle

Breaking practice, City Council President A’Lynne Boles shuffles the city clerk and city attorney to the end of the dais. They object.

by Andy Balaskovitz
For as long as anyone can remember, Lansing’s city clerk and city attorney have sat on either side of the president during City Council meetings.

No more. The Council’s new president, A’Lynne Boles, has bumped the clerk and city attorney to opposite ends of the dais.

And the clerk, Chris Swope, isn’t happy about it. Nor is the city attorney, Janene McIntyre. She even issued an opinion saying Boles can’t do it without a vote. Boles has done it anyway.

Boles said the move is so she can be closer to Judi Brown Clarke, the vice president and newest member of the Council. The two sat next to each other at last week’s meeting for the first time this year.

When asked why she wanted to sit closer to her, Boles said, “Because that’s my choice of how meetings will be run.”

The move appears to have disgruntled Swope and annoyed McIntyre.

“I’m still in disbelief it has taken on the life that it has,” McIntyre said, adding that she’s spent “more time than what I should have” researching the issue.

McIntyre said it doesn’t matter to her where she sits, but that Swope had indicated he prefers sitting next to the president.

Swope said Tuesday that before and after last week’s Council meeting, “I expressed to (Boles) that I didn’t think it made sense. There’s a lot of communication that goes on between the clerk and the president historically.” He cited examples of helping call public speakers to the podium and running the time clock, which is “convenient” for speakers if it’s in the middle of the dais.

“It just seems like a logical place to fulfill my role,” Swope said. “I don’t think it’s the right decision.”

McIntyre’s opinion says that “as long as memory serves,” the city clerk and the city attorney have sat immediately to the president’s left and right, respectively. Besides bumping Swope and McIntyre to the ends of the dais, Boles has moved the chief deputy clerk off the dais. All of the Council members shifted one or two seats over. The internal auditor also moved.

“We have a new vice president, and I would very much like those conversations to be in a contiguous area,” Boles said, referring to Brown Clarke. “Running a meeting is not something I require assistance on” from the city clerk.

However, in the opinion she issued Tuesday, McIntyre said the Council president can’t unilaterally change the seating arrangement. She wrote the

Council can change it by a majority vote.

“No single Council member has authority over another, unless they are granted that authority by the Charter or the Council as a whole,” she wrote — which she says it does not.

Despite objections from Swope and McIntyre, Boles said the seating change will stick for its meeting Thursday. She seemed bothered to even be contacted about the story, wondering how it came to light.

Boles also took issue with previous City Pulse stories that pointed out she dropped her married name, Robinson, following a divorce. She accused the paper of being “sexist” because she didn’t know of other examples of that happening. (Boles is the first Council member since City Pulse started publishing in 2001 to change her name while in office.)

Boles asked for a list of instances in the past five years in which that’s happened to anyone in the paper. When she was turned down, she said, “I’m going to FOIA that.” As a private business, City Pulse isn’t subject to the state Freedom of Information Act. (Editor’s note: Boles is welcome to come into the office and research it herself. Copying is 10 cents a page.)

“We’ve agreed to disagree and not be disagreeable,” Boles said of Swope. As for McIntyre’s opinion: “It’s just that, an opinion.”

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