Council Approves Agreement with Equity Company without City Attorney Disclosing He Co-Owns that Company

Wednesday, October 17, 2012, 7:26 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

This article was published before East Lansing Info (ELi) existed in its current form as a 501c3 nonprofit organization and therefore may not reflect its current standards; we have kept it at the site to preserve the archives.

Last night, City Council voted to enter into a legal agreement with a company called Woodland Pass Equity Company apparently without City Attorney Tom Yeadon ever formally disclosing to Council that he is a co-owner of the company.

The agreement gives the city an easement on a property owned by Woodland Pass Equity Company, the property housing the city attorney’s law offices at 601 Abbot Road, on the southwest corner of Fern and Abbot. The city sought the easement in order to widen the sidewalk and rebuild a large retaining wall along Abbot. According to the synopsis of the City Council meeting of July 10, 2012, the whole of the project cost $130,310 in public funds.

The pre-existing retaining wall constituted a safety concern and an aesthetic blight. The new wall increases safety and also would appear to increase the value of 601 Abbot Road by fixing the substantial blight. It would therefore appear that Yeadon’s company, Woodland Pass Equity Company, stood to benefit from the easement.

The easement agreement, using standard language, acknowledges that it benefits the company Yeadon co-owns: it states that Woodland Pass Equity Company (“the Grantor”) is giving the easement “in consideration of the prospective benefits to the Grantor to be derived by reason of the locating, improving, extending, and maintaining a public sidewalk and adjoining retaining wall.”

Yet we can find no documentation – no memos, no signed agreements, and no recordings from Council – that indicate that Yeadon disclosed to Council that he is a co-owner of Woodland Pass Equity Company.

On September 13, 2012, Yeadon conveyed the agreement to Council for its approval without disclosure of his co-ownership in Woodland Pass Equity Company. In his cover memo, acting as City Attorney he told Council this:

“I have reviewed the permanent Grants of Easement prepared by the City’s Engineering Department and signed by the owners of the property on Abbot Road between Fern Street and Oakhill Avenue. These easements were required for the installation of a new sidewalk and block retaining wall. […] Woodland Pass Equity Company is a Michigan co-partnership registered and in good standing with the Ingham County’s Office.”

In the memo, Yeadon did not disclose that he is one of the partners of that company. Last night at Council, he also made no disclosure.

Our FOIAs on the matter have not yet been answered. As part of the FOIA request, we have sought to determine whether Yeadon billed the city for representing the city in this matter.