McKane's out early

Mayor retires Dec. 29; plan raises pension by $11,000



Lansing State Journal - November 26, 1992    


          Lansing Mayor Terry McKane announced Wednesday that he will take a lucrative early retirement package and leave the post he has held the last 11 years.

          Flanked by his wife and three children at his City Hall office, McKane said he will resign Dec. 29, with one year left in his third mayoral term.

          The action puts City Council President James Crawford in line for the $74,095 job as mayor of Michigan's fifth largest city. The next election would be November 1993.

          Crawford said he will announce early next week whether he will take the job, after consulting with his family.

          McKane, 51, said he thought his legacy would be that he has instilled a higher standard and image in the mayor's office. He also noted that his administration has been scandal-free.

          Yet his departure comes under the cloud of the early retirement plan, a program that will boost his pension about $11,000 to nearly $52,000 a year.

          McKane proposed the buyout as a way to slash white-collar positions, reorganize city government and tackle Lansing's financial woes. The council approved it in April.

          McKane said he did not know the retirement deal included elected officials until after it was approved.

          The retirement plan will save Lansing millions of dollars, he said.

          "I will leave office with a strong sense of pride and a clear conscience," said McKane, who spent 10 years as a councilman before being elected mayor in 1981.

          He described the position at the helm as the best job a person can have. But the 60- and 70-hour work weeks took a personal toll, he said.

          "Frankly, I've missed a lot of my family's growing up," he said.

          City Hall colleagues had mixed emotions about his departure.

          "He will have to answer to the people," said Councilman Tony Benevides, who took McKane's old council seat. "But I don't know that others will blame him. I think he was doing what any father would do. It was an opportunity that he could not pass up.

          Others were less kind.

          "I don't think it's morally or ethically right," Councilwoman Lucille Belen said of an elected official taking the early out. "It was always intended for employees."

          Councilwoman Alfreda Schmidt added: "There's no savings That's why it's not best for the city."

          Dealing with the retirements - roughly 120 positions, including numerous department heads - will be the first concern of the new mayor.

          McKane endorsed Crawford for the job.

          "He will be an excellent mayor," he said.

          Crawford, 41, was elected to the council in 1989 and was chosen council president this year. He has worked since 1985 for the state Senate and is administrative assistant to Sen. Fred Dillingham, R-Potterville.

          It's a job I would like to have," Crawford said. "It's my intention to take this Thanksgiving weekend . . . and talk to my family about what this means for them. If It's not right for my family, it's not right for me and it's not right for the people of Lansing."


Blair's path to retirement quieter, still controversial


Lansing State Journal - November 26, 1992              


             He may not have been under the TV lights or in front of the microphones, but City Clerk Jim Blair managed to get the word out Wednesday. He's retiring.

          Mayor Terry McKane said during his own retirement announcement that Blair, too, was taking the early out, effective Jan. 4.

          Blair was on vacation and unavailable for comment. He did not return phone calls to his home Wednesday.

          The third-person announcement drew some comments from City Council members who frequently have clashed with Blair.

          "It's about what I'd expect of him," Councilwoman Lucile Belen said. "I wasn't surprised. I was surprised that Mr. McKane would agree to do it for him.

          "If I'd been Mr. McKane, I would have told him to do it himself."

          Despite his retirement, the city clerk leaves today on a trip to New Orleans to represent Lansing at a conference of the National League of Cities. He is using nearly $500 of taxpayer's money, an action that angered some council members who said the city wouldn't benefit from whatever Blair might learn at the conference.

          At Monday's council meeting, members voted to discourage business trips using city money by people who are planning to leave.

          They stopped short of forbidding Blair's trip, saying the money came from Blair's own promotions account and he was responsible for how it is used.

          Before taking the clerk's job in 1990, Blair served on the City Council for 16 years.

          Like McKane, Blair will receive an enhanced pension by taking the early retirement: nearly $9,000, to $31,000 a year.

          Like McKane, Blair has defended his use of an early retirement plan that many said never was intended for elected officials. He said he simply would be taking advantage of a policy the council passed.

          He leaves an office that weathered several controversies over the past year.

          A citizen's group charged that incorrect information from Blair's office derailed a petition drive to put term limitations for elected officials on the Nov. 3 ballot.