Feb. 1 2017 01:32 PM

Former city auditor seeks to replace former boss on City Council

Having had a front row seat to the making of legislative sausage in Lansing, Jim DeLine, the City Council’s recently retired internal auditor, wants into the kitchen. He’s announced that he will run to represent Lansing’s Second Ward.

He’s already prepared his menu. “It would help to have someone on the dais with a financial background, somebody who knows how to read a spreadsheet,” said DeLine in his first official interview as a candidate. “I'm not saying I wear a green visor, and all I do is look at money, but somebody needs to say, ‘Wait a minute, how does that affect taxpayers if we OK this?’ And I can do that.”

DeLine

Indeed, DeLine’s financial understanding of the city is based on over 21 years of experience, working for over 18 years on the Lansing Police Department’s budgets and then, for the last three and half years, as the Lansing City Council auditor.

Second Ward is currently represented by Tina Houghton, who has not declared whether or not she will seek re-election to Council.

In his internal auditor role, DeLine clashed with powerful elements of Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s administration, including former City Attorney Janene McIntyre. Before her controversial exit from the city, she refused to provide answers to the City Council Committee on Ways and Means about outstanding legal bills owed by the city to contract lawyers.

It was Deline’s digging that fueled the Council’s request. McIntyre steadfastly refused to cooperate, and chairwoman of the committee, City Councilwoman At-Large Judi Brown Clarke, threatened to use the Council’s subpoena power to force her to appear.

Deline’s investigation angered Bernero, who called for Tina Houghton, then Second Ward Council Member and President of City Council, to reprimand DeLine. She didn’t.

And when McIntyre suddenly resigned from her post with a $160,663 golden parachute payout, it was DeLine that Councilmembers turned to in an attempt to flesh out why the payment had been made. His investigation, stymied by the settlement’s confidentiality clauses, revealed little.

If elected, Deline said he wants to ensure that city tax incentives are being used wisely and in the right areas of the city.

“My Second Ward concern is that these are things that have played into the mayor's mantra that he has had for the last five years, that we need millennials downtown,” said DeLine. “We have heard that over and over ad infinitum. In the meantime. Who gives a shit about the homeowner on Devonshire?”

He points to the former school at Cedar Street and Holmes Road, which used to house the Lansing Police Department, as an example of a building in need of incentives to bring it back on the tax rolls.

DeLine adds his name to chorus of opposition candidates rising up for the 2017 Council and mayoral race. James McClurken was first, filing to run in the Fourth Ward, likely challenging incumbent Jessica Yorko. That was followed by Peter Spadafore filing for an At-Large race where he could face off against incumbents Kathie Dunbar and Judi Brown Clarke. None of the incumbents have filed paperwork for re-election, and only Yorko has publicly indicated she would run again.

Add to this a likely knock-down, dragout fight for mayor featuring Bernero, state Rep. Andy Schor and possibly Brown Clarke, and you have the groundwork for a contentious election season.

Also, at least three shadowy groups are likely to seek to influence the races: Capitol Region Progress, a political nonprofit with ties to Bernero; Reform Lansing, with unclear ties; and No Secret Lansing Deals, a group with ties to business in the city. The latter two groups appear opposed to much of Bernero’s agenda, while the first group has backed Bernero candidates, including Shelley Davis Mielock and A’Lynne Boles, in their bids for City Council.

DeLine said he won’t condemn those dark money groups for not disclosing their donors.

“I don't think you can let the side of evil have all the ammunition,” he said. “You know, I need to have the same advantage. I need to have the same tools accessible to me.”

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