News Highlights from the Last 7 Days


East Lansing City Council added a proposed separation agreement with City Manager George Lahanas and a proposed interim city manager employment contract for retired East Lansing Fire Chief Randy Talifarro to its Tuesday night agenda. City Attorney Anthony Chubb negotiated the proposed agreement with Lahanas at the request of East Lansing Mayor Ron Bacon. No reason for the proposed separation was given other than “The East Lansing City Council has determined that it is in the best interests of the city to separate Lahanas’ employment in order to go in a different direction in the management of the city.” If approved as is, Lahanas would receive a severance package including a one-year base salary of $172,896 to be paid in a lump sum by Feb. 28, $46,035.80 for unused paid time off and his current health, dental and life insurance benefits through February 2024 for him and his family. Additionally, the city would continue to provide health insurance for him and his family for the next five years, until he turns 65 and becomes eligible for Medicare.

The Lansing School District Board of Education elected Rachel Willis as its 2023 president. Willis was president from 2017 to 2019. Eight of nine board members, with one absent, voted for the slate of officers, which also includes Robin Moore as vice president, Missy Lilje as treasurer and Nino Rodriguez as secretary. “There will be many challenges ahead in 2023 in public education,” Willis said, “but we feel we are headed in the right direction. Voters passed a more than $129 million bond last year. The school district is continuing work on an equity audit, and we recently finalized a five-year strategic plan that gives us a blueprint to move the district forward.”

In its first meeting of 2023, the Michigan State University Board of Trustees elected Rema Vassar as board chair. She is the first Black woman to serve in the position. She quoted Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress, saying, “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” She said she looks “forward to the transformative leadership of this board and the bright, green year ahead of us.” Trustee Dan Kelly was reelected as vice chair and Stefan J. Fletcher, the current chair-elect of the Association of College and University Policy Administrators, was selected as secretary and chief of staff to the board. Fletcher’s appointment is effective Jan. 30, and the board will make a formal approval on Feb. 10.

Lansing native Taylor Dudley, a Navy veteran, was released from his nine-month detainment in Kaliningrad, Russia. He entered U.S. custody in Poland. When he was imprisoned in April, he had been backpacking in Europe and was attending a music festival in Poland. It is unknown how he ended up in Russia. “The negotiations and work to secure Taylor’s safe return were done discreetly and with engagement on the ground in both Moscow and Kaliningrad and with full support from Taylor’s family back in the United States,” The Richardson Center, a nonprofit led by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson that helped free Dudley from detainment, said on Twitter.

Michigan State University settled its Title IX lawsuit with 11 former members of the women’s swimming and diving teams. The athletes filed the suit in 2021. U.S. District Judge Hala Jarbou originally ruled that the elimination of the programs did not create a large enough gap between women’s and men’s sports opportunities to violate the law. However, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned her decision, returning the case to the district court. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case in December. Now, MSU will be required to conduct a third-party gender equity review by Sept. 1. If the review determines there are issues, the school must rectify them by the 2026-2027 school year. The settlement will not reinstate the programs, according to the Lansing State Journal, though the athletes have been working with interim President Teresa Woodruff’s office to consider fundraising options that could make bringing them back more feasible.

East Lansing is now a “sanctuary city” following a 3-1 vote by the City Council. East Lansing has been a “safe haven” for immigrants since 2017, meaning it does not assist federal agencies in enforcing immigration laws. The sanctuary city designation codifies this non-compliance. Council member George Brookover was the dissenting vote, stating it would be “no different” from the city’s safe haven status and would place an unnecessary target on the city. East Lansing is now the only sanctuary city in the state, though Ingham, Kalamazoo, Kent and Wayne counties all have sanctuary policies in place.


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