March 16 2016 12:54 AM

Questions, questions and more questions


Two weeks after former City Attorney Janene McIntyre left employment with Lansing under a cloud of secrecy and a $160,623 settlement in hand, Lansing City Council members want some answers.

Among their questions:

— Why was a payout necessary?

— How come the hourly rates she was being paid differs from the hourly rate that she appears to have been paid in her severance?

— What's the cost to taxpayers for her year of city-paid, COBRA health insurance?

— How was McIntyre’s vacation, sick leave and personal time accounted for?

— Why was she paid more than the 120 days of severance allowed under her contract?

Answers to those questions, and more, hinge on councilmembers’ obtaining the 2015 version of McIntyre's contract, said Lansing City Council President Judi Brown Clarke .

The Council will hold a public hearing on Monday where it expects officials from the administration of Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero to provide information.

“We have a lot of questions,” said Brown Clarke. “We are gathering our information because we are only going to have one bite at this.”

McIntyre had been out of the office since at least Jan. 9, Brown Clarke and other councilmembers said. On Feb. 19, the Bernero administration announced that McIntyre had taken “an indefinite leave.” But it provided no explanation to the City Council or the public.

Then on Feb. 29 — just as suddenly as it had started — the McIntyre leave ended. She was back in the office, sitting in meetings laughing and joking with councilmembers. But by the end of the week McIntyre was gone again, this time permanently. The Bernero administration announced that McIntyre was no longer an employee of the city of Lansing, and said little more about it.

Councilmembers said they learned of the resignation the way most in the city did — through the media. The city attorney position reports to both the mayor and the City Council, but the Council was kept in the dark about why McIntyre had gone on leave or why, during that leave, she and the mayor executed a separation agreement.

That separation agreement, signed by the Bernero and McIntyre on Feb. 25, included among its many provisions a check for $160,663.

Of the amount, $127,567 covered her salary through the end of the year. But how it was computed puzzles councilmembers.

“Dividing Janene McIntyre’s biweekly check of $5,798.50 by 80 hours yields an hourly rate of $72.48 but, using the numbers in section 5 of her separation agreement, it seems she was paid those hours at a rate of $74.15,” wrote Jim DeLine, the city’s internal auditor in an email to Councilmembers on March 7.

An additional $33,096 was paid to compensate McIntyre for accrued vacation, sick and personal leave. That covered 400.1 hours of vacation time, 16 hours of personal leave — both of which are paid at 100 percent of her hourly rate — and 60.6 hours of sick leave, paid at 50 percent of her hourly rate.

“That appears to be all of the vacation and personal time she would have earned during her time with the city,” said Brown Clarke. “Are you telling me that she never took a personal day or a vacation day?”

In addition, the payout may run afoul of provisions in McIntyre’s employment contract. By law, Bernero submits an executive management plan at the beginning of every year. That plan is approved by the Council and attached to the contracts of all department heads. For McIntyre, the 2015 plan, which was attached to her 2013 employment contract, provides for severance of up to 120 days.

“Using either rate, if the Executive Management Plan only allows severance of 120 hours, the most the severance check would have been for is $71,187.88,” DeLine wrote to Councilmembers on March 7.

But Councilmembers say they are struggling to obtain copies of McIntyre’s 2015 contract, which may have different language.

“We need to know why this payout was necessary,” said Brown Clarke. “This looks like a parachute, and that’s particularly troublesome after the conversations we just had —led by this mayor — over banning golden parachutes.”

She referred to the City Charter amendment voters approved last year for city officials in the wake of the payout for Peter Lark, former general manager of the Lansing Board of Water & Light. It limits golden parachutes to a maximum of one year’s salary. It doesn’t apply to contracts that started before January, which includes McIntyre’s.