Appointment to replace Betz on Council

The Lansing City Council plans to appoint a new member to replace First Ward Councilman Brandon Betz, who abruptly quit the job last week in order to refocus on his “personal relationships and health” following a controversial rollercoaster ride of a half-term on the dais.

In a letter to the Council, Betz said his decision to resign followed a period of reflection on the past year — a tumultuous one that included his being fired from his day job, censured and stripped of his committee assignments and repeatedly urged to resign over a fiery exchange with activist Michael Lynn Jr. Eastsiders have also sought to circulate a recall drive against him.

“This last year has brought growth and realization in both my personal life and career,” Betz’ resignation letter said. “I have had a major change of heart toward many causes I supported during my campaign. I decided last year to continue my commitment to my ward. I have come to the realization that I need to focus on my personal relationships and health.”

Now, the Council is looking for an interested eastsider to take Betz’ place through Dec. 31, which would have been the third year in Betz’ four-year term. The fourth year will be filled at a special election in November.

First Ward residents who have paid their taxes can apply through Jan. 21. Interviews with all qualified candidates are set for Jan. 31. The Council plans to appoint the next day.

So far, City Pulse has identified two interested applicants: Eastside Neighborhood Organization Secretary Ryan Kost and Farhan Sheikh-Omar, a candidate for mayor of Lansing last year.. Several others, including Former First Ward Councilwoman Jody Washington, have said they are not running.

Sister-in-law accuses Chatfield of sexual assault

Former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield was alleged to have repeatedly molested his sister-in-law, Rebekah Chatfield, 26 — including allegations that date back to when she was a 15-year-old student at Chatfield’s church and continuing up until as recently as July, according to her lawyer, Jamie White of Okemos. City Pulse was the first to report that the alleged victim had filed a criminal complaint to the Lansing Police Department. Bridge Michigan reported her allegations in detail over the weekend.

Chatfield’s sister-in-law alleges that the former legislator began sexually assaulting her when she was a student and Lee Chatfield was a 21-year-old teacher at Northern Michigan Baptist Church and its associated Northern Michigan Academy School, which she attended. Lee Chatfield has since admitted to an extramarital affair but said it was with a consenting adult. In a statement from his attorney, he also denied “false rape claims.” Lee Chatfield, 33, is one of seven children of Rusty Chatfield, pastor of the church and school administrator.

According to Bridge, the Capitol was just one site of many alleged sexual assaults. Rebekah Chatfield’s attorney said that he expects the case against Chatfield will grow extensively, including allegations “involving financial improprieties when he was speaker,” reports Michigan Advance.

Lansing gunman faces charges after police standoff

Gregory Michael Sanders, 41, of Lansing, was arraigned on several felony counts of assault with intent to murder — among other criminal charges — after authorities said he barricaded himself inside a home for nine hours on the 4900 block of Pleasant Grove on Sunday (Jan. 9). After authorities entered the home, they said they found Dominique Elizabeth Hawn, 28, of Lansing, dead in the basement. Those with tips for police are asked to call (517) 483-4600.

City Council honors retiring reverend

The Rev. Dr. Melvin T. Jones, of the Union Missionary Baptist Church in Lansing, announced that he will preach his last sermon on March 6, closing a 32-year career. Jones has served as the president of the Lansing Clergy Forum and was a founding member of the Lansing chapter of Black Lives Matter. The City Council paid tribute to Jones on Monday. 

Chief 54-A judge announces retirement

Judge Louise Alderson, who has served on the bench for the 54-A District Court in Lansing since 2001, has retired, according to a Council resolution in recognition of Alderson’s work. Alderson moved to Lansing in 1967 and has served in various roles across Michigan, including as a legislative liaison for the governor. The resolution wished her well on her “next chapter.”

Hussain forms new housing committee

Newly installed Council President Adam Hussain has formed an ad-hoc Committee on Housing and Resident Safety, a four-member body of Council members led by Councilwoman Patricia Spitzley that’s tasked with reviewing current ordinances and policies to address and assist residents in housing safety and tenant issues. A report is due in September.

No suspects ID’d in Monday shooting

A 19-year-old man died after he was found late Monday afternoon near the 700 block of North Pennsylvania Avenue with multiple gunshot wounds. Authorities said the incident is under investigation, but they do not suspect the shooting was a random act. No other details were provided. Those with information to share with the Police Department can call (517) 483-4600.

Attendance plummets at East Lansing schools

Nearly half of East Lansing High School students were absent from class last week amid another COVID-19 surge, the Lansing State reported. Attendance reportedly fell from about 68% on Monday (Jan. 3) to bout 55% on Thursday (Jan. 6). School officials there said they have no plans to switch to virtual learning options as caseloads continue to rise.

Schor loses another deputy mayor

Deputy Lansing Mayor Nicholas Tate, who was promoted to the second-in-command job last year, has left the city for another job in Southern California — leaving Mayor Andy Schor without any deputy mayors or a chief of staff as he kicks off his second term. Executive assistant Mark Lawrence is filling in amid a search to replace Tate. In a press release, Schor said that he also expects to announce “soon” the hiring of a new chief of staff.

Shuffleboard Club plans downsize

Plans to transform the former City Market building into the Lansing Shuffleboard and Social Club have been delayed, but they’re still underway with construction set to begin next month. Recently released renderings show that the venue will now be contained to only one floor, complete with shuffleboard courts, several restaurants, two bars, a lounge and other suites. 

County shifts gears on gun intervention

Ingham County officials again changed their recommendation for a nonprofit organization to operate a gun violence interruption program called Advance Peace in Lansing this year. Initially slated to go to The Village Lansing, county officials now expect to offer funding for the program to Peckham Inc., who will reportedly subcontract with People Ready Activating Youth or P.R.A.Y. The recommendation will still require formal approval from county commissioners this week. 

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