By Tom Travis
Pastor Chris Martin spoke on behalf of the Flint Unity Coalition of Pastors at a press conference on the northeast lawn of the Genesee County Court House Tuesday to show support for City Clerk Inez Brown and to call out County Clerk John Gleason for a letter sent by his office last week.
City Clerk Inez Browns sends letter to Secretary of State
While Brown has not specifically responded to Fulcher’s letter, Brown did write a letter to Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Brown does not address any of the issues Fulcher raised in her five-page letter to Brown. In her letter to Benson, Brown asks the Secretary of State to find a solution for City Clerks throughout Michigan concerning a backlog with the U.S. mail.
Martin called the letter from Gleason’s office “very inappropriate and scathing.”
“There have been no misgivings or malfeasance in the City Clerk’s office,” Martin declared at the press conference. “John Gleason needs to cease and desist his bullying tactics against Ms. Inez Brown.”
“Ms. Inez Brown has served the City of Flint as City Clerk for numerous years and has been a woman above reproach,” Martin continued. “This type of bullying, slandering and rebuking by the County Clerk’s office, which has no jurisdiction over the city of Flint elections, has become unbearable.
“Today we stand in support and solidarity with what Ms. Inez Brown has to do to move the city of Flint elections forward,” he said.
City Council President Monica Galloway (7th Ward) and Councilperson Eric Mays (1st Ward) were the only city council members present at the press conference. Asked for a comment after the press conference, Galloway said she would not comment because the city clerk is still involved in litigation (with the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU] and a group of Flint residents).
Mays came to the podium later in the press conference speaking passionately about what he called “the illegal interference” in city elections from Gleason’s office.
Gleason’s office windows look down onto where the press conference was taking place, and Mays turned and pointed up to Gleason’s office as he spoke.
“The types of behavior coming from the county clerk’s office is just as bad as suppressing the vote. This is not the first time John Gleason has used his office in an inappropriate way to interfere with the elections of Flint.” Martin stated.
“The letter that was sent from the County Clerk’s office was demeaning, discouraging and it was disrespectful to the wonderful staff that works so hard every day to make sure the elections in the city of Flint are done above board and without reproach.” Martin added.
Martin concluded, “We send a message of unity and a message of togetherness. We need to work together, we should work together. But we send a clarion call to the county, please, please, those in the County election division, let the city of Flint elections officers do their job.”
“It’s a witch hunt that needs to stop,” Pastor Al Harris stated
Pastor Al Harris of the Saints of God Church in Flint was invited to the podium by Martin to speak. Referring to the letter sent to Brown from Fulcher, Harris said, “This is bogus. It’s a witch hunt that needs to stop right now” Harris listed many of the surrounding issues with the most recent election, mentioning the U.S. mail problems, the pandemic, the number of absentee ballots, malfunctioning equipment.
Martin didn’t, at first, say directly that racism is an issue as a reason behind the Fulcher letter, but eventually stated, “It’s a crying shame that the rebuking, the bullying of Ms. Brown, is done by people who do not look like the people that are standing here today. Those types of tactics, those types of innuendos will not, will not be tolerated or accepted by this city. “
Later, responding to a reporter’s question as to the reason for the letter, Martin said, “it’s shrouded in a lot of closet racism.”
In a phone interview after the press conference, Gleason stated he did not author the letter and had nothing to do with it. Gleason said the letter came about as a result of a conversation between Fulcher and the Board of Canvassers. Gleason also noted he was not aware of all the letter alleged happened concerning the City Clerks office until he saw it posted by the media.
Asked what level of accountability the County Clerk’s office has over the Flint City Clerk’s office Gleason replied, “none.” The Genesee County website suggests there is some jurisdiction. But ultimately the City Clerk answers to the Flint City Council.
According to the Genesee County website The Genesee County Board of County Canvassers is composed of two Republican members and two Democratic members. The Board members are responsible for canvassing the votes cast within the county. The Board members certify elections for local, countywide and district offices, which are contained entirely within the county, they serve. The Board members are also responsible for inspecting the county’s ballot containers every four years. Each political party forwards to the County Clerk three names for consideration by the Genesee County Board of Commissioners. Members of the Board of Canvassers serve 4 year terms.
EVM assistant editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.