Former City of Ypsilanti mayor Beth Bashert resigned Tuesday, June 26, 2020, following backlash from what many members of the Ypsilanti community called racist remarks from the former mayor.
During a Tuesday June 16 Ypsilanti city council meeting, Bashert stated during a publicly broadcast discussion that she would be “crucified” for not voting in favor of “any Black person on any commission.”
Her comments came after accusations that she, as the mayor of Ypsilanti, did not appoint or reappoint people of color to city commissions. Appointing and reappointing members to city commissions is a power only vested with the city mayor. Bashert was asked to apologize multiple times during the meeting following her remarks.
Following her remarks during the June 16 meeting, two members of the City Council, Annie Sommerville and, Nicole Brown, called for her resignation during a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Ypsilanti on Saturday, June 20.
Bashert’s term as mayor was set to expire in November of 2022 prior to her resignation. The Ypsilanti Election Committee voted unanimously on June 26 in favor of a plan that does not immediately fill the vacancy left by Bashert.
The mayor is the only public office elected by a citywide vote.
Ypsilanti mayor pro tempore Lois Richardson filled the vacancy left by Bashert. Richardson was sworn into the Office of the Mayor of the City of Ypsilanti on Wednesday, June 27, and will remain in office until the 2020 general election in November when the Ypsilanti City Council will elect the next mayor pro tempore for the City of Ypsilanti.
The individual the city council elects as mayor pro tempore in November 2020 will then assume the role of mayor of Ypsilanti until the term ends in November 2022. In addition to appointing the mayor, Ypsilanti City Council will appoint a mayor pro tempore for the next two years following the general election.
After the appointment of the new mayor, applications to fill the vacancy for the wards representation in the City Council will be accepted by the Ypsilanti City Council. The vacancy must be filled within three City Council meetings according to the Ypsilanti city charter.
Prior to Bashert’s tenure as mayor of Ypsilanti, she represented Ypsilanti’s Ward 2 residents in the Ypsilanti City Council.
Ypsilanti’s Election Commission consists of City Attorney John Barr, City Assessor Courtney Duggar, and City Clerk Andrew Hellenga. Initially, they had planned for the mayoral candidates to file as independent prior to the 2020 general election. However, after meeting with the State Bureau of Elections and the Washtenaw County Clerk’s Office it was determined that the timeline required for a special election this year would be impossible. According to state law, a primary must be conducted for the office of mayor.
State law requires a special primary be conducted prior to the general election for the Office of the Mayor. Given the timing of Bashert’s resignation, this would not be possible as the city charter requires a special election to be called no sooner than 45 days before the election. Bashert, however, resigned 42 days before the Aug. 4 primary election.
Bashert is not the first Ypsilanti mayor to face scrutiny while in office. Bashert’s predecessor, Amanda Edmonds, came under fire after traveling to China with four Ypsilanti officials in 2017. Funds for the trip, which were estimated to have cost $40,000, were determined to have originated from the Chinese real estate development company Global Capital Finance Group. Global Capital Finance had planned to build an international village at the Water Street Redevelopment Area location. The trip payment was considered unethical and a violation of state law. Edmonds did not seek reflection at the end of her term.
According to the City of Ypsilanti website, the structure of the city’s government consists of a City Council "comprised of a Mayor, who is elected by voters in the city at-large, and 6 Council Members elected from the City's 3 voting wards.” According to the city website, Ypsilanti has a "council-manager form of government," combining elected officials with an appointed local government manager.