Surprise Council Swearing-In Cancelled Without Explanation Following Criticism
Above: The still-seated 2015-2017 East Lansing City Council and Rep. Sam Singh.
Yesterday afternoon came a surprise announcement that the City Council would be holding a meeting tonight at 6 p.m. to swear in the newly-elected members and have the Council vote to decide who among the five members will serve as East Lansing’s Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem for the next two years. Moments ago, the City of East Lansing has just as abruptly cancelled the meeting.
A short press release was issued at 11 a.m. saying only: “Tonight’s special meeting for the East Lansing City Council Oath of Office has been cancelled. The City will be issuing additional details once a new date/time has been confirmed.”
ELi reported yesterday the news that the City had, without explanation, cancelled the scheduled meeting of Council for tomorrow, Tuesday, November 14, and then announced, with only about twenty-four hours’ notice, a special Monday, November 13 meeting for the swearing-in and election of the next Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem.
Following ELi’s report, criticism of the scene came late yesterday from Sam Singh, East Lansing’s representative to the Michigan House of Representatives and House Democratic Leader. Singh, former Mayor of East Lansing, posted on Facebook the following comment:
“I’ve been out of our city government for a bit but I don’t believe it is appropriate for them to hold the vote for Mayor/Mayor Pro Tem tomorrow. [The City] Charter is pretty clear that the organizational vote happens on the Tuesday after the election,” which would have been tomorrow.
Singh’s comment continued: “Also, the terms of the two newly elected members technically starts on Tuesday not Monday so it would not be appropriate for at least the newest member [Aaron Stephens] to vote on anything until his term begins. Not sure who authorized the cancellation of the meeting for Tuesday and its replacement to Monday but it seems sloppy.”
Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum tells ELi that, as of 11:30 a.m. today, “The Ingham County Board of Canvassers has not certified the November 7, 2017 Election.” The swearing-in can’t happen until the results are certified.
The City’s website never did list the meeting for tonight, nor was an agenda ever posted. The next City Council meeting listed is for November 21. No agenda for that meeting has been posted.
We have not previously seen this kind of sudden scheduling of the swearing-in and election of Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem, and no explanation has been provided as to why this year’s scene has been different from past ones.
In the 2015 election, voters elected Erik Altmann, Shanna Draheim, and Mark Meadows to City Council, and those three were sworn-in on a Tuesday evening two weeks after the election. That Council then voted Meadows as Mayor and Ruth Beier as Mayor Pro Tem.
That 2015 meeting then went on to cover a typically-varied agenda, including allowing public comments, approving minutes from previous meetings, holding a public hearing on a proposed ordinance, and passing a consent agenda.
In 2013, newly-elected members were also sworn in at a Tuesday meeting two weeks after the election. Following the swearing-in and election of the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem, Council held a normal meeting with a typically-varied agenda.
This year’s sudden announcement of a Monday swearing-in and Mayoral election therefore stands in contrast.
As noted yesterday, Meadows, Altmann, and Beier have been functioning as a unified voting block on Council for most of the last two years, so it appears likely they may choose the next Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem.
Beier told ELi yesterday she no longer wants to be Mayor Pro Tem and has no interest in the position of Mayor. Stephens told ELi he is not ready for either position.
The other three Council members have not responded to questions about whether they wish to be Mayor or Mayor Pro Tem.
It’s unclear whether the meeting where the swearing-in happens will allow public comment, but citizens wishing to weigh in on the question of who should be Mayor or Mayor Pro Tem can write to Council at firstname.lastname@example.org. They should copy Aaron Stephens at StephensforEL@gmail.com because he is unlikely to be added to the Council address until after he is sworn-in.