WEDNESDAY, Feb. 10 — A local Black Lives Matter activist and firefighter has been accused of misconduct for sharing the city-issued cell phone number of Lansing Police Chief Daryl Green on Facebook.
Lansing firefighter Michael Lynn Jr. urged his nearly 2,000 followers on social media last month to call Green and “let him know how we feel about his Department’s post” on his city-issued cell phone.
Lynn was referencing a Facebook post from LPD that paid respects to a police dog that was killed in action in 1999. The post offered high honors for the dog but repeatedly referred to Aldric “AJ” McKinstry Jr., who shot and killed the dog before officers shooting him 18 times, only as “the subject.”
Lynn was close friends with McKinstry and still fondly refers to him as his “brother.” He also confronted Mayor Andy Schor about the insensitive nature of the post last year, who vowed to “look into” the situation. Seven months later, it reappeared and triggered Lynn to take action.
“That post was the reason why I shared his number,” Lynn explained. “If they’re going to say there are security or privacy issues with that, then maybe he shouldn’t be giving his number out to citizens. He gave me his number, not in a work capacity, but as a citizen. He offered it to me.”
Lynn also said Green gave him the number with no conditions about whether he could share it.
After widespread backlash, the Police Department eventually removed the post from its page. Green, who was reportedly inundated with phone calls after his number was shared online, issued a statement that the post was “causing too much harm to the Lansing community.”
“The annual post is intended to honor the memory of an LPD K-9 that lost his life in the line of duty, as we honor all LPD employees that have died in the line of duty, and was certainly not intended to disrespect or hurt any citizens,” Green posted on Facebook a few days later.
Lynn posted Green’s number Jan. 25. Ten days later — and just one day after a text message dispute with City Councilman Brandon Betz made headlines — Lynn received a “Notice of Pending Charges” from the city’s Department of Human Resources.
“By posting the number of Chief Green and asking individuals to contact him on his departmental cell phone about an issue you knew was controversial and at a time emotions were running high, you compromised the operational efficiency of the Lansing Police Department by causing Chief Green to change his phone number at a critical time,” it states.
About one week earlier, the city was filled with an army of cops in anticipation of widespread protests tied to President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Those never fully materialized in Lansing.
“You potentially compromised the safety of citizens that he and the Lansing Police Department swore an oath to protect. As a City of Lansing Firefighter, you too swore an oath to protect the citizens of Lansing. Your actions on Jan. 25 failed to live up to that oath,” the letter states.
The letter also cites several sections of “Administrative Operational Guidelines” that Lynn allegedly violated by sharing the number. It said Lynn could be fired if the claims are upheld. He’s scheduled for a disciplinary hearing Friday that could resolve the matter.
“They have no room to punish me for anything,” Lynn said. “I’m already not getting paid.”
Lynn is also suing the city for racial discrimination. He said he’s still employed by the Fire Department but hasn’t worked there in any formal capacity for nearly a year. He said he collected sick leave from May through September, but that bank of paid time has since run dry.
The city is disputing his longstanding disability claim tied to a work-related case of post-traumatic stress disorder, Lynn said. While he’s still covered with city medical benefits, Lynn said he hasn’t received a normal city-issued paycheck in several months.
Lynn also insisted that Green’s work-issued cell-phone number was “public information” even though it is not publicly listed on the city’s website. Local news outlets and members of the public have been asked to first interact with a public information officer in order to contact Green. City Pulse has also never been given direct access to Green’s cell phone.
Still, Lynn said sharing the number was fair game. It also led to the dog tribute’s deletion.
“Is this a moral issue or a legal issue? Something I should lose my job for?” Lynn replied when he was asked if he thought it was impolite to disclose Green’s number.
Law enforcement records that disclose an informer or undercover agent, disclose personnel records of law enforcement agencies, reveal the contents of staff manuals or endanger the safety of law enforcement officers or their families are typically shielded from public view.
Records that reveal the private addresses or telephone numbers of officers or agents are also exempt from the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. Pseudo-public work-issued cell phones, however, are a bit of a grey area and seem to carry different, circumstantial legal interpretations.
But Lynn’s disciplinary hearing isn’t about FOIA or state statutes. It’s about departmental policy and codes of conduct. Those violation decisions can be appealed, but are decided internally.
And it’s not the first time Lynn has faced disciplinary action from city officials.
In May 2019, Schor reversed a two-week unpaid suspension that was imposed on Lynn over yet another dispute involving social media in which Lynn criticized the mayor on Facebook for a lack of diversity within the Fire Department. Officials then leaned on policies that prohibit conduct that impairs “working relationships of the department” and “negatively affect public perception.”
That formal complaint arrived a few months after Lynn filed his first discrimination lawsuit against the city. This month’s letter also arrived after a public dispute involving top city officials.
One day before Lynn’s disciplinary notice was sent, Lynn outed First Ward City Councilman Brandon Betz for a series of profane and offensive text messages he sent to Lynn. Betz has since been censured, stripped of his committee assignments and urged to resign by every member of the City Council as well as the Lansing chapter of Black Lives Matter. He also told City Pulse earlier this week that he plans to resign only “if my constituents want me to.”
City Pulse asked Lynn: Do you think the two issues are connected? “No comment,” he said.