Mayor Bernero appoints new city attorney, says he’s one of the top municipal attornies in Michigan

LANSING, MI (WLNS) – New developments are emerging in Lansing after Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero announced Monday that he wants a new attorney to represent the city.

There have been many names involved with this controversy; starting with Mayor Bernero, Janene McIntyre, city council members, Joseph Abood, and now Jim Smiertka.

“I’m just excited about it,” Smiertka said.

Being the city’s legal voice isn’t anything new to Smiertka, he served as the city’s attorney under two former Lansing mayor’s from 1994 until 2004.

He said it’s a tough job, but he’s looking forward to the opportunity to return to it.

He says he’s a team player, he follows the law, and he has a vision for best practice for the city.

“I think clearly, and my record will demonstrate, honesty, transparency, trust, I want the law department to be the trusted person advisor for council, mayor, department heads, the community at large,” he said.

Lansing City Councilmember, Carol Wood said the mayor’s announcement Monday morning came as a surprise.

“I was just as surprised as most; I think all council members were, to get up this morning and to see that there was a press release out there stating that this was a recommendation that he was going to make to council,” Wood said.

As part of a resolution the council had done, council members asked to be part of the hiring process to fill the city attorney position. She said the fact that they weren’t, added to that surprise.

However, Wood said she’s worked with Smiertka before and found him willing to collaborate with both the council and administration. A trait she said, the city needs.

“He has a wealth of experience with municipal law, and I think we’ve been lacking that for a while,” she said.

If the council approves his appointment, Smiertka will be diving into a pool of controversy surrounding the former city attorney’s $160,000 dollar payout, the pay raise of about $30,000 to Interim City Attorney Joseph Abood, and consistent denials and road-blocks when it comes to the council, media, and members of the public wanting to get public information.

A lack of transparency Smiertka said isn’t how he conducts business.

“The community is going to recognize that the law department is a team and that it is honest, that it is responsive, and trustworthy, and that’s what’s going to happen,” Smiertka said. “We’re going to be open and transparent. It all comes down to these words trust and honesty and openness, diligence, and I look at it in terms of an attorney-client relationship.

The council could vote on Smiertka’s appointment as soon as June 27th. If the council gives Smiertka the green light, he will start on July 1.

Interim City Attorney, Joseph Abood would then become Chief Deputy City Attorney.

Stay with 6 News, we will continue to follow this story moving forward and keep you updated with new information when we get it.

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