Analysis, Opinion & Ideas from Steve Harry
Do City, BWL managers contribute voluntarily?
Originally posted September 8, 2013; updated September 10
In last week's story, I suggested that in June of last year two of Lansing mayor Virg Bernero's campaign staffers received extra large paychecks so they could contribute to the campaigns of Bernero's preferred city council candidates. Each contributed $1000 to Kathie Dunbar and $500 to Jessica Yorko and Tina Houghton.
It appears that City and Board of Water & Light managers felt obligated to contribute to those same candidates. The suggested contribution amount for City employees seems to have been $300. For BWL employees, it was $100.
Here are some contribution totals:
If the mayor is indeed suggesting contribution amounts, he is abusing his mayoral powers. The mayor appoints department heads and has the power to remove them (Article 4, Chapter 4 of the City Charter). Appointees may feel that acting on a "suggestion" is crucial to their continued employment. The money they involuntarily contribute comes from salaries paid them by the people of Lansing. They are paid those salaries to do their jobs, not to enhance the political power of the mayor.
He is also interfering with the democratic process, an activity usually associated with Republicans. His opponents and the opponents of his preferred city council candidates are put at a disadvantage by the coerced campaign funding from city employees.
BWL general manager J. Peter Lark also has the power to hire and fire at will. On July 16, 2007, his first day on the job, he fired 3 top administrators, so his people, too, are likely to be sensitive to contribution suggestions. The BWL general manager is appointed by the mayor with approval of city council.
In addition to City and BWL employees, several Lansing business people and PACs contributed to Bernero and his preferred candidates in 2013. Here is a list.
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