Lansing Charter Revision Commission elects leaders, sets schedule in first meeting

Brian Jeffries named chair and Lori Adams Simon selected vice chair


WEDNESDAY, May 22 — Former Lansing City Council President Brian Jeffries will chair the city's first-ever City Charter revision commission, its members decided yesterday.

The nine commissioners picked Lori Adams Simon as vice chair during their first meeting at City Hall after being elected May 7.

Jeffries, 69, a 46-year resident, has been the lead attorney for Michigan State University’s Student Legal Services program for more than 40 years. He served as City Council president twice during his tenure between 2003 and 2013. Before that, he was an elected Ingham County commissioner from 1983 to 1992 and a Lansing Community College trustee from 1997 to 2003.

Jeffries came in second out of 36 commission candidates. He was nominated by former state Rep. Joan Bauer, who came in first.

“I was very much appreciative for their support,” Jeffries said. “For me, the takeaway is that it was unanimous, which is a very positive thing because it means we’re not divided from the start.”

Adams Simon, 55,  is a consultant on diversity, equity and inclusion. She served as the chief of staff for former 10th District House Rep. Nelson W. Saunders from 1990 to 1997. A former DEI director at Sparrow Health, Simon also spent 15 years as a contract and control specialist with the Michigan Department of Community Health. She was a member of the city’s Board of Ethics for 13 years, serving twice as president.

“It’s an honor to have their vote of confidence as a vice-chair, and I think that the chair and myself will work great together,” Adams Simon said afterward.

Under their leadership, the commission, which was elected May 7, will have about two and a half years to submit charter changes to the Governor’s Office. If approved, the revisions will be placed on the ballot. If voters reject it, commissioners can try again twice more, or choose to disband permanently.

The commissioners agreed to meet twice a month at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays starting in June. “Twice a month is the minimum that we should do,” Jeffries said

The dates are June 4 and 18, July 2 and 30, Aug. 13 and 27, Sept. 10 and 24, Oct. 8 and 22, Nov. 12 and 26 and Dec. 3 and 17.

City Clerk Chris Swope offered basic operating guidelines based on Robert’s Rules of Order.

Among them, Swope recommended three minutes each for public speakers.  Commissioner Jody Washington, a former City Council member, proposed five, which is what the Council, boards and other commissions allow.

“This is the people’s constitution, their charter commission, and frankly, I think three minutes is too short for anybody to make a substantial comment,” Washington said.

The motion failed 5-4, with Liz Boyd, Adams Simon, Jeffries, Ben Dowd and Qawwee voting against it and Bauer, Jasmin Anderson and Guillermo Lopez joining Washington in favor. Afterward, the commission voted 8-1 to approve Swope’s initial rules of procedure, with Washington in dissent. Washington did not elaborate on her opposition.

The rules also established a five-member quorum, which means five members must be present to conduct an official meeting and record votes. In the event of a vacancy, the remaining commissioners will appoint a replacement member.

Members also discussed hiring legal representation. After consulting with the City Attorney’s Office, Swope said, he recommended hiring outside counsel.

“There may not be inherent conflicts, but there are definitely potential conflicts. It just seemed to be a better route to go the outside counsel route,” Swope said. He added that he would draft a request for proposals from attorneys for putting the post out for bid.

Afterward, Adams Simon and Jeffries weighed in on the task that lies ahead.

“It’s great that there’s diversity in our leadership, because there’s diversity on the commission and leadership needs to reflect the communities they serve,” said Adams Simon, who is African American. Jeffries is white.

She also thanked Swope and his team for their “efficiency.”

“Nothing really caught me by surprise, but I would’ve expected no less from the clerk,” she said.

Jeffries said the commission is still “getting our feet wet.”

“Tonight was mostly about figuring out the details for how we’re going proceed. I think everybody was kind of jumping around a little bit, which could be expected. As we hone this down more, the focus will come. It’s a good group, and I’m real excited to work with them,” Jeffries said.

“For me as chair, we have to have transparency, we have to be listening, we have to accommodate,” he added. “We certainly intend to do all of that with not only the members, but any of the public that comes in.”

The meeting kicked off with a training session with Chris Johnson and Bob Slattery of the Michigan Municipal League.

The session  included an overview of the Home Rule City Act of 1908, which established how cities can form a charter commission. Johnson also touched on the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act and offered advice on how commissioners could best avoid transparency issues and keep the commission compliant with the law.


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