UPDATE

Betz and employer 'part ways' over angry text-message exchange

Councilman under fire for attack on local Back Lives Matter leader

Posted

FRIDAY, Feb. 5 — First Ward Councilman Brandon Betz' employer said today that they have "parted ways" following his angry text-message exchange with the co-leader of the local Black Lives Matter chapter.

"The Michigan League for Public Policy’s mission is to advance economic security, racial equity, health and well-being for all people in Michigan through policy change. It is important that our staff be fully committed to our values and mission. The Michigan League for Public Policy and its former staff member have agreed to part ways. We will not be commenting on this matter further." 

Black Lives Matter movement has called for Betz to immediately resign after he goaded a local Black activist into an argument, calling him a “weak ass bitch” and a “dickbag troll.” 

“Based on your statements to the media and your texts to one of your constituents, Black Lives Matter Lansing joins Michael Christopher Lynn Jr., our new chapter co-lead since January 2021, in demanding your resignation from the City Council and Michigan League for Public Policy.”

Also today, political damage to Betz became evident with a call for his resignation from the leadership of the Lansing chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Betz is a self-declared socialist.

"We no longer have confidence in Betz’s ability or willingness to serve his multiracial, working-class base, nor do we have confidence in his commitment to the socialist struggle," the executive board said in a statement. 

Lynn said he filed an ethics complaint against Betz with the city yesterday. If Betz is found to have intimated or threatened a member of the public, he could be slapped with a misdemeanor.

Betz has been unavailable for comment.

Betz, who is in his first term the Council, sent text messages to Lynn Wednesday after Mayor Andy Schor’s annual State of the City address, according to screenshots of the conversation shared and verified by City Pulse.

“How’s having even less power in the city than you did a month ago going,” Betz asked Lynn, apparently unaware that Lynn had recently been named co-lead of the local BLM chapter. 

“I’d say you’re playing a real dangerous game. This ain’t politics and I’m not a politician or a nice person,” Lynn wrote back to Betz in response. “If I was you, I wouldn’t text my phone again.”

This month, Betz backed away from pursuing a vote of no confidence against Schor. His initial text to Lynn was a jab that implied Lynn had lost support amid a yearlong campaign against the mayor in which both Lynn and Betz have repeatedly called for Schor to resign, Lynn explained.

But Betz didn’t stop. Screenshots show Betz continued to belittle Lynn — calling him a “dickbag troll who no one listens to” as well as a “weak ass bitch” who only wanted more political clout.

“All you want is power and everyone sees it. You’ll turn your back on any white person who doesn’t do exactly what you want. Weak ass bitch,” Betz wrote. “I’m not scared of you.”

Lynn suggested that he and Betz meet to “talk” in person. Betz then replied to Lynn: “Gonna bring your gun or just your fists? Should I have someone video tape you assaulting me too?”

Lynn asked Betz twice to stop sending him text messages; Betz ignored both requests.

“I don’t represent assholes,” Betz wrote at the end of the text message exchange.

Betz — once a vocal critic of Schor — has changed his tune in recent weeks, especially after he joined him and Council President Peter Spadafore in cutting the line for their COVID-19 shots. In response to that incident, Lynn labeled Betz as “useless” and urged him to resign this week.

Betz also applauded Schor Wednesday for the “tone and tenor” of his speech. And while the two “remain diametrically opposed on many issues,” Betz said he was willing to work with Schor — just months after he sent an open letter to Schor that asked him to resign as mayor.

“I’m concerned for him. He needs help. I’ve seen this type of behavior before,” Lynn told City Pulse “He’s obviously having some type of crisis. But it’s scary as a Black man. The way he was talking to me made me feel like he was trying to goad me into a fight. I’ve seen this before.”

Betz said today that his language was “unprofessional” and claimed that he only wrote the messages in response to Lynn's “threatening physical harm against me and my family multiple times.” Betz said that Lynn has been “wildly abusive” to him. The texts were a “brash decision.”

“Context is important here if you want to get the story right. Although what I said to Mr. Lynn was unprofessional, the texts came as a conclusion to a conversation that had been ongoing.”

Screenshots show that Lynn told Betz last year that “I’ve ducked (sic) people up for less,” which Betz said he interpreted as a threat. Betz didn’t provide any additional evidence of threats. 

Betz also said Black Lives Matter activists — including Lynn — have repeatedly pressured him to pursue a “no confidence” vote against Schor, but no other Council members would support it. Both Betz and Lynn acknowledged that the divide helped trigger a dispute between them.

“What was a one-way relationship turned into Black Lives Matter and specifically Mike Lynn claiming that I was a white supremacist for not doing the work for them,” Betz said. “Although I had sacrificed my political career for this cause, they turned on me and began harassing me both privately and publicly. I am human and do not take threats against me or my family lightly.”

Lynn said he never threatened or intended harm to Betz or his family, claiming that yesterday’s text message exchange was the first time the two have spoken directly since mid-December. 

Betz worked with activists and leaders of the Lansing chapter of Black Lives Matter last June to craft a resolution that would’ve defunded the Lansing Police Department. It never saw a vote

Afterwards, those ties devolved into a “one-directional relationship where I was told what to do by Black Lives Matter and I did it without questioning,” Betz told City Pulse. That included pushing a no confidence vote against Schor last year that also never materialized, he said.

"I made calls to each council person in turn to determine their support and I found that I would be the only yes vote on council on that particular vote. As such, I made the decision to not move forward because I felt that bringing forward a vote of no confidence would not be effective at achieving the goals that Black Lives Matter were seeking,” Betz said in a statement sent today. 

In a Facebook post, Black Lives Matter Lansing said Betz “agreed” to call for a vote of no confidence against Schor in November. His failure to do so “effectively ended the alliance.”

“The community has moved on without you to continue our work to defund the police which began long before you ever thought about the Lansing City Council or building a political career on the Black struggle for liberation,” according to a Facebook post shared late this afternoon. 

City Council President Peter Spadafore also admonished Betz’ text message exchange, labeling them “offensive, inappropriate and unbecoming of a member of Council.” Councilwoman Carol Wood said she’ll do “whatever is necessary” to hold Betz accountable.

“I am appalled and sickened by the recent comments,” she said. “I believe it to be the responsibility of Council to do whatever is in our legal power to admonish Council Member Betz.”

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