Eastside residents seek to recall Betz from Lansing City Council

Ingham County Election Commission to review recall petition language

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(This story was updated at 9:02 a.m. to correctly identify  how many signatures are needed to initiate a recall election.)

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 27 — An east side resident and a group of 30 volunteers are looking to trigger a recall election for Lansing City Councilman Brandon Betz as early as next year following complaints about his “unprofessional conduct” and a lack of communication with constituents in the city’s First Ward.

Undra Brown, 23, of Lansing, filed recall petition language yesterday with Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum that could theoretically put Betz back up for a special election as early as next May — assuming the petition is approved by the county and the petition garners enough signatures.

“City Council member Brandon Betz was condemned unanimously by the City Council for unprofessional conduct in Resolution 29 of 2021,” the petition reads. “Betz has been removed from his committee assignments and on Aug. 26, 2021, Betz admitted on social media he ‘receded into private.’ Betz is still collecting his $26,552 salary as a part-time Council member.”

The Ingham County Election Commission is slated to meet at noon on Nov. 15 at Conference Room A of the Hilliard Building, 121 E. Maple St. in Mason to review the proposal and determine whether the proposed language is “factual and of sufficient clarity,” Byrum said.

From there, Betz can appeal the decision to a Circuit Court judge within 10 days.

If it’s allowed to proceed, Brown and his volunteers would have 180 days to gather signatures from at least 25% of registered voters who cast votes for governor in 2018 in the 1st Ward — which Byrum estimated to be at least 2,545 names. The signatures on the recall petition must also be collected within 60 days of it being filed — giving Brown and his volunteers a theoretical maximum of two months to gather enough names.

And if that happens, Betz could be forced to run against any number of would-be challengers at a special election that could be scheduled as early as May 2022 in order to maintain his seat. 

“It can be done. I have about 30 volunteers who are on standby, waiting for this to get approved so we can start collecting signatures,” Brown said. “I believe the First Ward is going through a taxation without representation sort of deal. He has ignored the will of the people. The Council asked that he consider resigning. Many people have asked him to resign. He’s not listening.”

Betz labeled the proposed petition language as "false and misleading" but declined to comment further until after the hearing. 

Brown is a “disruptor” at Rogue Strategy Group, a Lansing-based consulting firm that primarily lobbies for Republican causes. He helps run the organization alongside Scott Hagerstrom, a GOP operative who was the state director for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. 

“Brandon Betz has faced a ton of backlash for his behavior,” Brown added. “He was removed from all of his committee assignments. He said he’s still working hard for citizens, but he also said that he has receded into a more private life. That’s not fair representation for people.”

Betz faced a deluge of public criticism— including hundreds of calls for his resignation — after he sent a series of profane text messages in which he called Michael Lynn Jr., the former co-leader of the Lansing chapter of Black Lives Matter, a “dickbag troll who no one listens to” and a “weak ass bitch” who only wanted more political clout. Lynn repeatedly asked Betz to stop sending him messages. Betz kept going, later telling Lynn that he doesn’t “represent assholes.”

In the weeks that followed, Betz and his wife departed to Alaska to visit family and “take care of personal affairs,” he said. Meanwhile, he was formally censured by the Council, fired from his job at the Michigan League for Public Policy and widely criticized by political groups, including the Ingham County Democratic Party and the Lansing Democratic Socialists of America. Both of them — as well as Black Lives Matter — have echoed calls for Betz to resign from the Council.

In an August turnabout, Betz posted on Facebook that he had abandoned his past plans to seek a reduction to the Lansing Police Department budget. And despite calling for Mayor Andy Schor’s resignation over the issue last year, Betz publicly also endorsed Schor for reelection.

“I am no longer tied to a particular movement or ideal,” Betz wrote on Facebook in August in his first public post since he disappeared from social media in February. “I will use my knowledge, skills and experience to focus on the issues of the day with rationality and keen economic precision. I will work to ensure that our city is better than when I came into this position.”

The first-term Councilman also clarified: He’s still interested in public safety reforms, but he now knows that reducing funding for cops without further research “would put our city in danger of spiraling out of control,” according to Betz’ Facebook post. As a result, he said he doesn’t plan to take any action that would actually work to reduce the size of the Police Department budget.

Betz also went on to label Black Lives Matter, among other groups, as “niche” organizations run by a “small group of activists” that don’t necessarily represent the interests of the city or the safety of its residents. That post triggered another social media firestorm in the First Ward, with many residents claiming that Betz only backtracked on the political ideals that got him elected. 

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