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Numerous questions surround why Lansing city attorney received $200,000 for resigning

Apr 13, 2016

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s something brewing around Lansing’s City Hall.

On March 4, Lansing’s city attorney Janene McIntyre resigned voluntarily, but the Lansing State Journal reports that McIntyre was still paid $160,000 in salary and accrued benefits. McIntyre and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero have repeatedly declined to discuss the details about why she left and why she was given such a substantial payment by the city.

Last week, Bernero told the LSJ that his refusal to offer details may be "poor politics, but good business."

Lansing City Council President Judi Brown Clarke says that $160,000 figure may be closer to $200,000, in addition to $10,000 in legal fees that went into negotiating the settlement. With all of those questionable numbers, no one is offering an explanation for any of it.

If the person left their job amicably and decided to resign, there's no scenario that shows that you would pay the balance of the year [in salary] and then pay the balance of the year of health care. That doesn't even reconcile in rational thinking. So, something happened.

Clarke joined Stateside to talk about the controversy and how she thinks it might be time to get Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette involved in the case.

At the heart of this issue is a two-month long search for a missing contract. This is the contract that McIntyre signed in 2015 for her position as city attorney. Clarke says individuals in a leadership position sign an initial contract and then sign a contract extension each year they choose to remain with the city.

McIntyre's contracts for 2013 and 2014 are on file, as well as the one from a 2016 separation agreement that was the basis for the severance that McIntyre negotiated and received. However, the 2015 contract is not with the city clerk’s office, where it is supposed to be.

“I can’t imagine how you’d be diligent but one year – and it's the year in question because whatever was in that contract for 2015 drives what this separation agreement was based on,” said Clarke.

Clarke says the numbers just don’t add up. She wants to know how McIntyre's vacation and sick time was calculated and how she received somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 months of salary when the maximum allowed for an executive who resigns is 120 days. But without that contract, Clarke is unable to complete the puzzle.   

According to Clarke, when questioned about it, Bernero said it cannot be located. After all this time, Clarke is under the belief that the contract just does not exist, and if that’s the case, then technically McIntyre is not a city employee. And if she is not a city employee, then she resigned from a position that she didn’t officially hold and shouldn’t be receiving a generous severance. However, if it does exist, it needs to be examined to find out why McIntyre received the amount of money she did. 

“It’s extremely frustrating,” said Clarke. “My question is … why did you need a separation agreement? If the person left their job amicably and decided to resign, there’s no scenario that shows that you would pay the balance of the year [in salary] and then pay the balance of the year of health care. That doesn’t even reconcile in rational thinking. So, something happened.
 

Why would we pay ... around $200,000 to someone that resigned? It makes absolutely no sense.

“What we want to know is, what’s the rationale? What happened that caused us to need a separation agreement? And secondarily, did she have a legitimate contract with the city …? If not, that money needs to come back," said Clarke. 

The questions continued to pile up as Clarke made a phone call to the law firm that handled the negotiations for McIntyre’s severance. The negotiations that cost the city approximately $10,000. She wanted to know who their client was for those negotiations because if they were representing the City of Lansing, then Clarke, as city council president, could have access to the case files and potentially answer some of her questions. However, if they were representing the mayor, then the city was improperly billed for the services.

Clarke received a voice mail from Dykema lawyer Gary Gordon that said that he was under the impression that he was being retained by the mayor. She says that Gordon has since “reframed” what he said on the voice mail.

“When Mr. Bernero says that [the settlement] was ‘poor politics but good business,’ he’s exactly right,” said Clarke. “But unfortunately, we’re in politics, and not business. Therefore … if you flip that around, that is what’s driving me to get to the bottom of this.”

“Why would we pay … around $200,000 to someone that resigned? It makes absolutely no sense." 

Listen to the full interview below to hear how the $200,000 figure was calculated and what the next step is for this controversy.