GENESEE COUNTY – The Michigan Bureau of Elections today directed Genesee County Clerk John Gleason to refrain from participating in election activities to ensure public trust in the county’s elections.
Gleason was charged April 8 with bribing, intimidating and/or interfering with a witness and willful neglect of duty.
In a letter informing Clerk Gleason of the bureau’s decision, and instructing him to refrain from participating in any and all official election duties while charges are pending, Bureau of Elections Director Jonathan Brater stated: “…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. 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 said Gleason’s official election duties should be performed by the county’s chief deputy clerk until further notice.
Genesee County Elections Supervisor Kathy Funk is currently on leave due to unrelated criminal charges pending against her.
Charges against Gleason stem from a Dec. 24, 2019 incident where he was accused of performing a marriage outside his jurisdiction in Owosso.
A complaint was authorized April 7 against Gleason, 68, for alleged conduct between December 2019-March 2022 and two charges were brought against him.
Gleason is charged with one count of bribing/intimidating/ interfering, a 4-year felony and/or $5,000, and a second count of willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
The charges stem back to an incident Dec. 24, 2019 at Memorial Healthcare in Owosso where Gleason performed a marriage, which is outside his jurisdiction. The couple wanted to be married just before giving birth to their child, according to reports.
The Shiawassee County clerk said she gave verbal consent for the wedding, but no written permission or official marriage license was issued. Michigan law says Gleason could be guilty of a misdemeanor if he did not receive written permission.
Gleason reportedly said he asked officials in Shiawassee County to validate the marriage about a month later. When they refused, he allegedly asked his own staff to validate the wedding and back date the forms.
Employees in the clerk’s office at that time reported to Genesee County human resources they were intimidated by Gleason to backdate the paperwork to make it valid.
Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton recused himself to avoid any kind of conflict of interest involving Gleason and turned the case over to a prosecutor from Tuscola County.
The judge in the case set May 19 for a probable cause hearing, followed by a preliminary exam May 25.