State directs Genesee County clerk to steer clear of election duties after charges

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Michigan Bureau of Elections has banned Genesee County Clerk John Gleason from participating in upcoming elections following Gleason's arraignment in Genesee County District Court earlier this month on charges of witness interference and public officer-willful neglect of duty

Bureau of Elections Director Jonathan Brater sent Gleason a letter Thursday informing him that the charges "threaten to fundamentally undermine voter confidence in the integrity of elections in Genesee County."

"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 wrote. 

Gleason's lawyer John Dakmak said Thursday evening he had not yet seen the state's press release regarding the matter.

"But I will say that I find it troubling that our secretary of state would take such a drastic step based on nothing more than a mere unproven allegation," Dakmak wrote in an email. "Conduct, I might add, that has nothing to do with the election process. I thought this state was trying to work past fomenting distrust in our election process." 

John Gleason

Among the duties Gleason is prohibited from engaging in are voter registration responsibilities; ordering, programming or testing election equipment; training inspectors; reporting election results; participating in post-election canvasses; or conducting post-election audits, according to Brater's letter.

Gleason's responsibilities will be transferred to the chief deputy clerk since the county's elections supervisor, Kathy Funk, is also charged in a separate case related to her work as the former Flint Township clerk.

Gleason was arrested and arraigned April 8 on charges related to an investigation into a 2019 marriage officiated by the clerk outside the county, allegedly without the necessary legal documentation he needed to perform the marriage there. 

The clerk is alleged to have sought to influence county clerk's office employees in relation to the marriage and the more than year-long investigation into the issue.

Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene, who is handling the case as a special prosecutor, said in a court filing that after the officiation of the 2019 marriage, Gleason attempted to have members of his office "backdate records in accord with his prior actions that were violative of several legal requirements."

Then, when Gleason became aware of an investigation into the marriage, "he directed that an employee of the clerk's office meet with him in his office to resolve the prior marriage issue and accused her of misconduct," according to the court document.

Gleason is a former state representative and senator who has served as county clerk since 2012. 

Gleason is expected in court for a probable cause hearing May 19 and a preliminary examination May 25.