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State elections director orders Genesee County Clerk to "refrain from administering any elections"

Genesee County Clerk John Gleason.
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Genesee County clerk John Gleason is forbidden from administering elections until he’s cleared of criminal charges, according to a letter the state elections director sent him on Thursday.

Gleason was arrested and charged with witness intimidation and willful neglect of duty earlier this month. Officials have offered few details, but the charges reportedly stem from a marriage Gleason performed in 2019 and subsequent efforts to get this staff to falsify paperwork related to it.

In the letter, Michigan director of elections Jonathan Brater acknowledged that, while those charges remain accusations for now, they “stem from conduct that allegedly occurred while acting in your official capacity as Genesee County Clerk.”

“Our legal system presumes that persons accused of criminal conduct are innocent until proven guilty and the criminal charges you currently face could eventually be resolved in your favor; however, allegations that you have intimidated a witness to interfere with an official proceeding and willfully failed to perform a legal duty threaten to fundamentally undermine voter confidence in the integrity of elections in Genesee County,” Brater wrote.

“Therefore, in order to ensure public trust and confidence in the integrity and security of elections, I am instructing you to refrain from administering any elections held in Genesee County while these charges are pending against you,” Brater's letter continued.

Brater added that because “County Elections Supervisor Kathy Funk is currently on leave because of unrelated criminal charges, these duties should be performed by the Chief Deputy Clerk until further notice.” He told Gleason that the ban would continue until “you are acquitted or the charges against you are dismissed, or you are otherwise notified in writing that this directive has been modified or terminated.”

Gleason could not be reached for comment Thursday. His lawyer, John Dakmak, said he had not yet reviewed the letter, but went on to say that “it does appear premature that Ms. Benson’s office is taking such a stance based on nothing more than an unsubstantiated allegation.” Gleason has court hearings scheduled in May.

Given the charges against both Gleason and Funk, the Genesee County Board of Commissioners has requested help from the Michigan Secretary of State to administer this year’s upcoming elections.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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