The East Lansing City Council’s July 14 meeting was not expected to be a dramatic one, however that is what it became, after two voting members of the council resigned suddenly.
During the meeting, and after several agenda items had already been approved and addressed, council member Lisa Babcock decided to open a vote on terminating East Lansing City Attorney Tom Yeadon’s contract on Oct. 1. Despite opposition from former Mayor Ruth Beier and Council member Mark Meadows, the motion to end this contract passed. Before the vote, discussion on the topic was opened by Beier, as she attempted to ask Babcock for an explanation.
“Under the contract, no reasons are necessary,” said Babcock. “I think we’ve had many experiences on this council that speak to the need of change.”
The former mayor responded by challenging Babcock to present some back up to her claim.
“The basic decency of hiring and firing requires reason,” said Beier. “Just because you can fire someone without cause at will, doesn’t mean you should and no decent human would.”
Beier alleged possible wrongdoing on the part of Babcock on how this particular item made it on the agenda, and how Babcock, as well as other members of the council violated rules of The Michigan Open Meetings Act by discussing ending this contract outside of the meeting with other counselors. She stated by collaborating together to plan this, it was a violation of this act.
“If you have a problem with the city manager, you have an executive session,” said Beier. “That’s when you discuss labor issues, you do not do it in public.”
“If the council is unhappy with any its employees, there’s a proper way to take care of this,” said Meadows. “That is to confront the employee with the unhappiness, or the specific items that are causing a problem with regard to the relationship between the city council or city council members and Mr. Yeadon.”
When the lengthy discussion was concluded, Babcock, along with then Mayor Pro Tem Aaron Stephens and Council member Jessy Gregg voted to terminate the contract. The vote passed 3-2.
Shortly following the vote, Beier continued her critical speech towards the council, but made sure to thank Yeadon for his service, who was present in the meeting. Yeadon has held the position of city attorney since 2012.
“I am humiliated to be a part of this council,” said Beier. “All three of you have commented that you didn’t really know how to do this, rather than find out how to do this, you decided to use your power to fire the city attorney.”
“I would like to resign,” said Beier. “I’m going to leave this circus to the fools who are left. It’s been great working with two of you, the rest, sayonara.”
Beier left Stephens to move the agenda forward. This was quickly halted by Meadows, who wanted to make his own statement.
“The decision I have made today to resign from city council was not spontaneous, and has been contemplated by me for several months,” said Meadows. “The action that prompted it was of course the action terminating the contract of the city attorney.”
Meadows continued to speak about the possible rule violations the council had made in the session, before changing course by talking about his love for the city, and his many accomplishments in the city and community.
Stephens asked Meadows if he would briefly stay in the meeting following the conclusion of his resignation statement, to which Meadows declined, and immediately left the Zoom call.
Stephens now shifts to the position of Mayor of East Lansing, as per rules when a mayor resigns. The city will have a month to fill these newly opened East Lansing City Council seats, according to the meeting minutes. The rest of the meeting was completed as planned, with Stephens now running it.
“This was an extremely difficult meeting,” said Stephens. “I think that it will be felt in the city for long after the close of this meeting.”