Lansing attorney refiles recall petition language against Betz

Ingham County Election Commission set to review new proposal

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WEDNESDAY, Nov. 17 — Another recall petition targeting Lansing City Councilman Brandon Betz was filed yesterday with the Ingham County Election Commission — this time by a local attorney — after commissioners voted to reject the last version of a similar proposal on Monday.

Liz Abdnour, a Lansing attorney who also identifies as a lifelong Democrat voter, filed the recall language yesterday. The Election Commission must sign off on the petition before it can begin collecting voter signatures. A “clarity hearing” will be scheduled before the end of the month.

The cited reasons for the proposed recall includes the following language:

“Betz sent the following text messages to constituent Michael Lynn Jr. which are the basis of this recall: 1. “...you’re a dickbag troll who no one listens to. I heard you made enemies with Kathie too. Good work! 2. “All you want is power and everyone sees it. You’ll turn your back on any white person who doesn’t do exactly what you want. Weak ass bitch.” 3. “I don’t represent assholes.”

Abdnour and local political strategist Undra Brown have also assembled a website that provides additional clarity on exactly why they’d like to send Betz packing midway through his first term.

“We are a group of Lansing Ward 1 citizens who demand accountability, transparency and representation from our leaders. Our City Council representative Brandon Betz has failed us on all three counts. It’s time for Brandon Betz to go,” reads a blurb at the top of the new webpage.

Abdnour’s two-person “Committee to Recall Brandon Betz” reportedly includes a bipartisan group of more than 30 volunteers who are ready to start collecting signatures if and when the Commission approves the proposed recall petition. 

Betz faced a deluge of public criticism this year — including hundreds of calls for his resignation — after he sent a series of profane text messages to Michael Lynn Jr., a former co-leader of the Lansing chapter of Black Lives Matter and founder of the nonprofit group The Village Lansing.

The recall language filed yesterday is exclusively centered on the public feud between them.

Following that feisty exchange, Betz and his wife departed to Alaska for about a week 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.

The new “Recall Betz” website also cites those concerns.

In August, Betz also labeled 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.

“If a recall effort does not proceed, Betz will remain in his position until at least November 2023, the date of the next scheduled election for his Council seat. Lansing City Council members make about $26,000 — those are our tax dollars paying his salary,” the website notes. “We do not want our money to be spent on paying someone who has decided to not do his job for us.”

Betz, for his part, has recognized that his remarks to Lynn may have been “insensitive” — but he also doesn’t think that cussing out a constituent should serve as grounds for a recall election.

“The recall process should be reserved for serious offenses,” Betz told City Pulse. “It is silly to me that they think they will succeed on the grounds that I used curse words while in office.”

Lynn said today that he never received an apology from Betz. He also told City Pulse that he’s not at all personally involved in the recent recall efforts, though he still supports the initiative.

Late last month, Brown also tried to file a proposed recall petition against Betz, but the Election Commission — comprising County Clerk Barb Byrum, Chief Probate Judge Richard Garcia and County Treasurer Eric Schertzing — dismissed the petition language, largely on a technicality.

Byrum said that Brown — who moved from the Fourth Ward to the First Ward in July — hadn’t technically registered to vote in Lansing until about one hour after he filed the proposed recall petition. And because those can only be filed by registered voters of the jurisdiction of the elected official they seek to recall, the Commission voted 3-0 to reject the petition altogether.

Abdnour said the latest filing was designed to correct that issue. It also included new reasons for the recall. And if it’s approved, Betz will have up to 10 days to appeal the decision to a Circuit judge.

From there, Abdnour and Brown would have another 180 days to gather signatures from at least 20% of registered voters who cast votes for governor in 2018 in the 1st Ward — estimated to be at least 2,545 names. Those names must also be collected within 60 days of being filed, giving the group of local volunteers a two-month window in which to gather and submit the signatures.

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.

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.

Hagerstrom was also one of nine attorneys sanctioned in a court opinion issued in August over what has since been deemed as a “frivolous” lawsuit that alleged widespread election fraud in the 2020 presidential election, MLive reports. He spoke on Brown’s behalf at Monday’s meeting.

On Monday, Betz labeled the petition organizers as “Republican operatives who do not even live in our ward.” Abdnour — who listed a First Ward address on Kingswood Drive on the petition — has since mused on Twitter about filing a lawsuit against Betz over that unfounded assertion.

She also said that she has no personal or professional connections to Rogue Strategy Group, Brown or Hagerstrom — only noting that they've all decided to form a united, bipartisan front against Betz.

“This is another attempt by Rogue Strategy Group to overturn a legitimate election,” Betz told City Pulse in a text message this morning. “It is time to move on. I will be reassigned to committees in the coming weeks and will continue to do the work to ensure this city thrives.”

Check back for continued coverage as the petition heads back to the Election Commission. 

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