Elizabeth White McDonnell
Elizabeth (Beth) White McDonnell advises municipal clients including cities, villages, townships, and counties on issues involving every area of municipal management. She also provides advice to boards, committees, and commissions as they carry out their work under local charter and state law. She has built her reputation on ethics, integrity, and steady leadership under pressure.
Beth has served as a municipal attorney for more than 20 years and has a strong background in ordinance and policy drafting, contract preparation, ethics and integrity, community networking, and creative problem-solving. She has extensive experience with issues involving freedom of information, open meetings, tax tribunal defense, intergovernmental agreements, risk management, water and sewer liability, elections, cemetery law, public pension systems, library law, and public finance.
Previously, Beth served as Corporation Counsel for Kalamazoo County and served 15 years in the Grand Rapids City Attorney’s office as Assistant, Deputy, and Interim City Attorney. She served as counsel to more than 20 city departments, as well as various public boards and commissions, including the pension board, library board, zoning and planning boards, local officer’s compensation commission, civil service board, and historic preservation commission.
As general counsel to Kalamazoo County—the ninth largest county in Michigan with a population of more than a quarter of a million residents—Beth provided legal services to County Board of Commissioners as well as all other Boards, Departments, and Elected Officials. In this role she strove to ensure County compliance with all applicable laws, minimize legal exposure, and maximize effectiveness of County resources.
During her 15 years with the City of Grand Rapids, Beth served as Deputy City Attorney, Interim City Attorney, and Assistant City Attorney. In these roles, she provided counsel and advice to the Mayor and a six-member Board of Commissioners on all matters of municipal law, both procedural and substantive; served as Director of Municipal Affairs Division, monitoring and delegating workflow to 10 Assistant City Attorneys; collaborated with outside counsel on specialized legal matters; served as citywide Freedom of Information Officer, providing timely and accurate responses to more than 1,000 FOIA requests per year; drafted ordinance amendments on various topics; drafted and reviewed contracts at all levels of complexity; and authored administrative and legislative policies.
In addition, Beth defended appeals in the Michigan Tax Tribunal (MTT) involving challenges to commercial real property tax assessments and conducted investigations into allegations of misconduct. She researched and drafted proposed ordinance language involving all areas of municipal authority granted pursuant to City Charter, State law, and the Michigan Constitution. Beth also served as counsel to various City boards, commissions, and more than 20 City departments.
Beth has provided training to municipal employees on topics including Freedom of Information, Open Meetings, Contract Administration, First Amendment Audits, Legal Issues for Housing Inspectors, and Sewer Liability for DPW Employees.
Michigan Association of Municipal Attorneys
Michigan Bar Association, Education and Outreach Committee