March 21 2016 11:01 AM

Council president threatens to hire outside counsel, employ subpoena powers

MONDAY, March 21 — The Lansing City Council needs outside legal help and may have to use its subpoena powers to get to the bottom of why the Bernero administration agreed to a $160,000 payout to former City Attorney Janene McIntyre, Council President Judi Brown Clarke said today.

“We just need outside counsel,” a clearly agitated Clarke said in a telephone interview this morning.


“Apparently we were not asking the right question, in the right way,” she added, expressing frustration over the behind-the-scenes fight to obtain information on McIntyre’s March 4 departure.

She referred to information the Council learned from a report in the Lansing State Journal today, which was that the Mayor’s Office had employed the local law firm of Dykema Gossett to negotiate the deal with McIntyre. The administration has declined to explain why the severance package was necessary.

Some of the information reported this morning, she said, should have been provided to the Council in answer to questions that it has posed, but had not been.

“We’re learning this in real time,” she said. “Either we get cooperation or we’ll use our subpoena power.”

Randy Hannan, chief of staff to Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, is scheduled to appear before the Council’s Committee of the Whole at 5:30 p.m. today to answer questions about the McIntyre matter.

The City Charter authorizes Council to use subpoenas to “make investigations into the affairs of the City and the conduct of any City agency.”

Brown Clarke said the Council was still waiting for a copy of McIntyre’s 2015 employment contract, which it requested last week. She said the contract would be key in understanding the severance package.

Brown Clarke

This is the second time in a year Brown Clarke has said she is prepared to use the Council’s subpoena powers to get answers from the Bernero administration. Last year, as chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee, Brown Clarke threatened to subpoena McIntyre to appear before the committee to explain why outside legal firms had not been properly paid for work conducted on behalf of the city by those agencies. McIntyre showed up without the subpoena being necessary.

McIntyre had been on unpaid leave from the city since January under the Family Medical Leave Act. That leave was extended twice, the Lansing State Journal reported today. Despite that leave being unpaid, the city continued to pay McIntyre’s salary, according to Jim DeLine, the internal auditor for the city, In addition, the severance agreement reached between the city and McIntyre paid her for over 400 hours of vacation time she had accrued, as well as personal and sick time, despite that fact that internal communications showed she would need to use her vacation, personal and sick time to cover her FMLA time. It is unclear why she was paid that banked time.

Brown Clarke said she hopes a subpoena will not be necessary.

“If our future cooperation reflects our past cooperation, we’ll need to go that way,” she said. “It’s going to get unraveled. It’s not going to stay convoluted, and I am not going to be FOIA-ing documents.”