An East Lansing prosecutor has declined to press assault charges against a Lansing City Council gadfly after an altercation with a Councilwoman last month, but efforts to beef up security at Lansing City Council meetings are ongoing.
Third Ward Councilwoman A’Lynne Robinson was involved in an altercation with Charlene Decker, one of Robinson’s constituents, after a May 28 Council Committee of the Whole meeting. Robinson sought an assault charge claiming that what started as an argument over public comment rights ended in a physical altercation.
"After reading the police report and conferring with the victim, I did not issue assault or assault and battery charges, simply because the touching did not appear to be intentional," Tom Yeadon, an East Lansing prosecutor, said.
Robinson had accused Decker of grabbing her finger, which allegedly happened as Robinson swatted Decker’s finger away as Decker pointed it in her face. Lansing City Attorney Brig Smith was a witness to the incident, which is why Yeadon was given jurisdiction over the case.
While Yeadon was determining whether to file charges, Robinson held a meeting with City Clerk Chris Swope, Lansing Police Department Capt. Edward Forrest, Council administrative assistant Therese Horn and Smith.
The outcome was a list of suggestions, like locking doors and holding all meetings in Council chambers.
But loftier suggestions would have the saloon-style doors that separate Council from the audience fitted with electronic locks controlled by the Council president. Earlier this year, Lansing resident Barry Schiffer kicked open those doors and angrily approached Council after a profane tirade — including talking about is AK-47 — that ended with him being subdued by police.
Other ideas include adding bulletproof glass to the barrier separating the audience from the Council and installing cameras in stairwells and other areas around Council chambers.
First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt says that he doesn’t think safety is an issue and wondered aloud about the cost of the safety measures.
Robinson, however, feels the security is necessary. For Robinson, the direct access to Council by the public is a concern. Rules were changed recently so that members of the public are no longer able to access the hallways behind Council chambers.
The escalation in incidents over the past six months has shown a need for increased safety measures, Robinson said.
"I don’t know that state legislators have been threatened with AK-47s, or called racial epithets," she said after being informed that there is less security in some state buildings. "We have."