Third city board member may quit over Rhodes-Reed
Another member of the advisory board to the Lansing Human Relations
and Community Services Department is considering resigning because of
the dismissal of its director, Genice Rhodes-Reed.
The Rev. Kirklin Hall, who has been on the board for two years, said
Tuesday night there is a high probability he will resign
by the end of the week.
Everything worked fine for two years. Genice Rhodes-Reed was doing
an excellent job. And suddenly I get a call from our chairman telling
me that she (Rhodes-Reed) was let go.
I was shocked, Hall, the pastor of Galilee Baptist church,
said. Right now I dont understand whats going on at
City Hall. I dont want to comment on if it was racism. I just
dont know enough so far. And a lot of people in my church also
ask the question what happened at City Hall.
The board members should have been informed by the administration.
I dont know what the reasons for Genice Rhodes-Reeds dismissal
The boards chairman, Robert Egan, and another member, Noel Capacio,
resigned after Rhodes-Reed was forced to resign on May 23. Egan, who
resigned on May 29, accused the administration of subtle racism
and cited the removal of four top-ranking African Americans: Rhodes-Reeds
three predecessors and the mayors former special assistant, Freddie
Thomas, all of whom were fired or forced to resign. Capacio quit in
has said nothing publicly about the dismissals. His chief of staff,
Bob Johnson, told the Lansing State Journal last month that the issue
with Rhodes-Reed was poor performance.
Board members apparently disagreed, at least to some extent. In a June
6 letter, they thanked Rhodes-Reed for her service, called her leadership
key to the continual evolution of the board and praised
her dedication and commitment to efforts to promote a no-tolerance
policy on ethnic discrimination after the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks.
Meanwhile, concern spread to the editorial pages of the Lansing State
Journal. Last Thursday, Suzanne Elms-Barclay of the LSJs community
advisory board strongly criticized the administrations decision
to dismiss Rhodes-Reed: In a reference to Hollisters civil rights
activities as a young man, she wrote: The message seems to be
I marched with Dr. King, but I am unable to treat African Americans
with respect and dignity when they disagree with me. Elms-Barclay
pointed out that anyone who knew Rhodes-Reed knew that performance
is not at the heart of this issue, which makes this the worst sort of
If Hall resigns, half of the boards six seats will be vacant.
The mayors executive assistant, David Wiener, said the city has
received only one application for the board.
Joe Graves Jr., the mayors former chief of staff, said, Its
going to be a challenge finding appropriate people, given the controversy
around Genice Rhodes-Reed.
The boards secretary, Amy Hodgin, said she plans to stay on, to
continue the good work weve done so far. She said
nothing could be accomplished by her resignation. But Hodgin again criticized
the way Genice Rhodes-Reed was dismissed. She said that not informing
the board was a slap in the face.
However, Hodgin pointed out that some members of Lansings black
community disapproved of Rhodes-Reeds performance.
Gordon Wilson, vice president of the Lansing chapter of the NAACP said,
The only thing I can tell you is theres a lot of bullshit
going on here. Wilson said Rhodes-Reed had not contacted the NAACP,
and we wont get involved in this unless she fills out a
formal consent form and makes a formal complaint.
Joe Graves Jr., who was let go from the city in July 2001 after his
arrest for drunken driving, said the fact that only a few people raised
their voices shows there was an absence of any coordinated group
of people, particularly people of color, who want to get involved with
issues related to social justice. This was different in the early
1970s, he said, when local African-American ministers formed the Ministerial
Alliance, led by Joe Graves father, the pastor of Mount Zion Baptist
Church. They spoke with one voice, and they were very concerned
about social justice. Today he thinks many pastors are more concerned
about building churches and are therefore reliant on the city for various
permits. I dont think its a stretch to suggest that
there are some people that are intimidated by the general authority.
Last Friday Graves won a battle in his appeal against the citys
opposition to his application for unemployment benefits. Administrative
Law Judge Donald J. Kennedy argued against the Hollister administrations
decision to deny Graves benefits. Since the employer was
not present at the hearing and there was no competent evidence
regarding any misconduct, the Judge concluded that Graves was not disqualified
from benefits. The city has until Aug. 19 to appeal.
Rhodes-Reed is now in a situation similar to Joe Graves. After
being fired and with no severance package, she applied for unemployment
and was turned down. Graves commented: This action is about being
vindictive and harassing in simple words: You take my job, you
terminate my salary and now you dont even want me to get food,
by receiving unemployment.