City Attorney Ad Naseum // Eliot Singer

ELi has another story about the city trying to keep secret information surrounding what us old-timers call retaining-wall-gate.

The city spent a significant amount of HUD Community Development Block Grant money to fix the retaining wall of the city attorney’s firm’s building. There were people yelling and screaming about it at the time, so pretending they didn’t know is absurd. Secrecy over this or over the hundreds of thousands of dollars in Lotto 1 fees to pay the developer’s lawyer and the city’s bond attorney, among other excessive costs, shows a city government that has failed to learn lessons about the consequences of cover up. I go back to Meadows’ buddy, former city manager, Ted-Almighty Staton, infamously proclaiming (to paraphrase), when The State News reported on a large federal income tax lien against the City Center II developer, “I checked into it and everything is okay.”

“Ignore that man behind the curtain.” “It depends on what your definition of is is.”

A more immediate issue is the city attorney’s involvement in one of the sexual assault scandals surrounding MSU basketball.

Obviously, there are major investigations going on. But read the comments by the city attorney and the then-assistant from that firm who did the actual plea bargain. Same old, same old: deny responsibility.

“They’re extremely common,” said Yeadon…. “Most of our cases are dealt down to littering. We look at assault cases a little more closely than we would a run-of-the-mill disorderly conduct. Oftentimes in assault cases, there are differing versions of who did what to whom. But that’s still a fairly common plea agreement.”

MSU Board has been called to resign by everyone from NY Times to state legislators of both parties to overwhelming vote of faculty senate to Meadows, basically for insensitive excuse making and lack of transparency. Meadows has called for getting rid of Tom Izzo.

The excuse for plea bargaining this particular case down to littering is: that’s what we always do. There have been a number of times over the years when EL city attorney or Ingham County prosecutor have been accused of lenient treatment of MSU revenue-sports athletes. That’s how we treat everyone has been the excuse.

Maybe. What I do know is that East Lansing homeowners have long complained about city hall turning a blind eye to disorderly conduct by MSU students, an attitude that if you choose to live in a college town, you have to put up with anything.

One of my former neighbors, a young family of the sort East Lansing says it wants as permanent residents, blamed Yeadon for why they reluctantly chose to leave. One incident was a home invasion by drunken students. What they told me was they wanted Yeadon to prosecute but he refused and said this was just typical student behavior.

That is not typical student behavior. Nor is sexual harassment. “There are differing versions” is not an acceptable response under the current atmosphere. At the very least, acknowledging that in the past they have probably been too quick to plea bargain and need to do a better job of taking women’s sexual harassment complaints seriously would be a starting point.

The ballot initiative for an in-house city attorney had enough signatures (despite a poorly-organized signature-gathering effort), but so many were illegally thrown out it was prevented from getting on the ballot. There is ample evidence that an in-house city attorney saves money. It would certainly have allowed for finding qualified candidates from somewhere outside mid-Michigan.

The job of a city attorney should be to protect the public interest not to protect the interests of government officials at the expense of the public interest. For a city that is desperate to persuade voters to give it money, East Lansing government remains amazingly tone deaf, just like MSU Board of Trustees. Yeadon has long been a huge liability. For Meadows to keep him around while demanding accountability from those over whom he has no authority is pure hypocrisy.


Eliot Singer

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