Lansing Votes 2021

Bernero: Schor must reverse firing of Black Lives Matter leader

Former mayor alleges ‘abuse of power’ within Schor administration

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THURSDAY, Feb. 18 — Former Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said he would not have fired ex-firefighter Michael Lynn Jr. after he shared Police Chief Daryl Green’s cell phone number on Facebook, labeling his termination as “overkill, “political retribution” and an “abuse of power.”

“As Mayor, I sometimes faced opposition, including by city employees, but I did not try to have them fired. This punishment does not fit the alleged offense and must be reversed,” Bernero said. “All those concerned about justice must demand that Mayor Andy Schor reverse this.”

Bernero is planning to run against Schor this year for his fourth term as mayor. City Councilwoman Patricia Spitzley also announced an intent to join the race — labeling Lynn’s firing as “unfortunate.” She also said that the move made her “concerned about the city."

Lynn, the co-leader of the Lansing chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement, was fired yesterday from the Lansing Fire Department after he urged his 2,000 social media followers to call Green on his city-issued cell phone and “let him know how we feel” about a a controversial Facebook post from LPD that paid respects to a police dog that was killed in action in 1999.

That since-deleted Facebook post from LPD offered high honors for the dog but repeatedly referred to Aldric “AJ” McKinstry Jr. — who shot and killed the dog before officers shot him 18 times — as “the subject.” Lynn was close friends with McKinstry and refers to him as his brother.

As a result of the disclosure, city officials said Green was inundated with calls and was forced to change his number “at a time emotions were running high” in the city. Changing numbers also “compromised the operational efficiency of the Lansing Police Department,” officials alleged.

Lynn said he was accused of violating multiple Fire Department policies at a subsequent “kangaroo-court-style” disciplinary hearing last week. And yesterday, it led to his firing.

A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office told the Lansing State Journal that Schor “deliberately removed himself from knowledge of any actions regarding this individual” after Lynn filed a federal racial discrimination lawsuit against the city, which also names Schor as a defendant. 

“There are procedures in our collective bargaining agreements for discipline of employees who act out against other employees. I am not involved in that process,” Schor said in a statement, noting discipline was instead handled by the city’s fire, legal and human resources departments.

Heads of those departments are hired by Schor. And Bernero — who plans to run against Schor for a fourth term in November — said it’s past time for Schor to get involved in the situation.

“We don’t need a mayor who uses the office to reward his friends and punish his enemies,” he added. “The punishment does not match the offense. It’s overkill. It sure looks like retribution.”

Unlike Bernero, Spitzley refused to speculate on what she would’ve done if she was the mayor.

“I’ve never been a Monday morning quarterback,” Spitzley said. “My focus, right now, is really on the financial situation of the city and the health of our community. As mayor, I’d be focusing on implementing policies and procedures that not only protect the citizens of Lansing, but ensure our employees feel welcomed, safe and have the same protections as anybody else.”

She added: “I don’t do speculation. I’m just focused on moving forward to create an environment where employees can bring their concerns to the administration without any fear of retaliation.”

Lynn said he only shared Green’s number to encourage the department to remove its Facebook post and to “stop the harm” it was doing to Lansing. Lynn also said Green gave him the number — which he labeled “public information” — with no conditions about whether it could be shared.

"This is pure retaliation,” Lynn said in a statement. “They cite in my termination letter that I am the driving force behind the community being upset with the Lansing Police Department, and that is simply not true. We are lucky to live in a community that is well-informed and holds its government responsible for its shortcomings, and the City's attempt to blame me for the community's dissatisfaction with its repeated failures is an insult to the citizens of Lansing.”

Lynn further argued that every conversation he has had with Green has been “on a personal level” — not tied to his employment with the city. Screenshots shared with City Pulse showed the two frequently discussed city-related issues, mostly in Lynn’s role as a community activist. 

One of those messages also suggested Green was pondering retirement last July. 

Lynn said the decision to fire him this week will likely lead to more litigation against the city. A spokeswoman for Schor said Lynn will also have a chance to appeal the decision to fire him.

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