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Lansing casino gets a boost (and leads to a resignation)

The proposed Lansing casino project has picked up a key endorsement. But there is some controversy of about the decision by a city economic development agency.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a new $245 million casino in downtown Lansing.  One small parcel of land critical to the project is owned by the Lansing Economic Development Corporation.   The LEDC has given its approval to the deal, which will see the group’s parcel turned into a temporary casino while construction on the main casino proceeds.

The project still needs the approval of the Lansing city council. That may come next month. 

The casino project is expected to run into opposition as the tribe asks the federal government to take the land into trust.

That opposition, coming from other tribes, resulted in controversy at the LEDC.   

Mayor Virg Bernero accused prominent Public Relations consultant Kelly Rossman-McKinney of "flagrant abuse" of  her position on the LEDC board, as her firm was in talks to represent the casino’s opponents.  

In a press released, Mayor Bernero said Rossman-McKinney should resign from the board. 

"It now appears that Kelly was using her position on our LEDC Board to punish our development team for failing to award her a contract, and then to audition for a paid contract representing the opponents of our casino plan," Bernero said in a written statement.  "It really is beyond the pale and the only proper course of action is for her to resign from the LEDC board effective immediately."

Kelly Rossman-McKinney says she will resign.  Though she insists that she did nothing to abuse her position.          

“I have never been motivated by anything less than the city’s best interests in my service on the Lansing Economic Development Corp. board,"  Rossman-McKinney said in a written statement,  "The mayor has made wildly speculative comments about my motivations, but I believe most people understand those comments to be more a reflection of his desperation to build a casino than of my intentions. I look forward to serving the city in the future.”

Rossman-McKinney recused herself from today's vote, after revealing that her firm had done some work for the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe in the past. She also acknowledges that her partner in a newly merged firm has been in contact with one of the tribes that has announced it plans to oppose the Lansing casino.  

Rossman-McKinney had submitted numerous questions to the tribe and developers about their project before Wednesday's LEDC meeting. She adds that its ironic that she recused herself from the vote, since she would have voted in favor of casino project deal.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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