“Both the city and the county messed up” on “invalid” Flint council swearing-in, according to County Clerk Gleason

By Tom Travis

“We all have to do better. Both the city and the county messed up,”  County Clerk John Gleason told East Village Magazine (EVM) in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon after declaring Monday’s swearing-in of the new Flint City Council “invalid.”

“The board of commissioners appointed someone that should not have been appointed [to the county board of canvassers] and the city swore in people that should not have been sworn in. We gotta do better,” Gleason said.

Monday afternoon, soon after the City of Flint’s swearing-in ceremony of the new city council attended by many dignitaries, government officials, and about 150 others, Gleason told local TV media that the swearing-in was “invalid” because the election had not yet been certified by the county board of canvassers.

Office door at the County Clerk’s office in the Genesee County Court House on Saginaw Street. (Photo by Tom Travis)

EVM has attempted to reach City Clerk, Inez Brown by email, text message, phone call (the voicemail box is full) and by visiting the clerk’s office in person on Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. At the time of publishing no email, text or phone call has been returned. 

Gleason said the certification actually was completed on Tuesday of this week except for the signatures of the board of canvassers. The signatures were added today, Wednesday, Nov. 10 at 10:30 a.m.

City Council swearing-in ceremony took place before election was certified.

“I didn’t know the swearing-in had happened until after it was over.” Gleason said, adding he was told by a City of Flint employee that the City of Flint has done this for 20 years — conducting a swearing-in ceremony before the election is officially certified.

Swearing-in ceremony of the new Flint City Council on Monday, Nov. 8 at City Hall. (Photo by Tom Travis)

The city charter states that the new city council is to be sworn in on the first Monday after the certification of the election. Monday’s swearing-in ceremony, on the contrary, took place only four days after the 12-day process of certification by the county board of canvassers.

The board of canvassers are under the supervision of the County Board of Commissioners

The board of canvassers are under the supervision of the County Board of Commissioners, not the County Clerk’s office of which John Gleason is the head of.

Gleason explained that by state law the board of canvassers are allowed 12 days to certify an election. “When I make an announcement out of my office I want it to be compliant with the law and accurate…We want things to be the way they’re supposed to be,” Gleason said.

“I was called a racist Monday night and Tuesday morning. This had nothing to do with race,” he asserted.

What is the county board of canvassers?

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.  The County Clerk picks from those names submitted to fill the remainder of the vacant term.”

The 115 page manual for the county board of canvassers can be viewed here on the Genesee County website.

The four members of Genesee County board of canvassers are: Enrique Rodriguez (Democrat), Sharon Reeves (Democrat), Norma Eskew (Republican) and Donielle Quinn (Republican).

A screenshot of the 115 page manual of the board of canvassers states on page 8 that an elected official cannot serve on the board of canvassers. (Photo of Genesee County website)

Donielle Quinn was the one elected official and also on the board of canvassers. It was reported in other local media that Quinn was elected to the Mt. Morris School board in Nov. 2020 and was appointed last month to the board of canvassers. Quinn said that she was unaware that an elected official can’t serve on the board of canvassers. Quinn is said to have resigned Tuesday night, according to Gleason.

“The canvassers were under duress to expedite this and I’m not happy with that. No one is happy with having to be rushed,” Gleason said. 

“I try to use up as much of the 12 days as I can so that the board of canvassers can go over it, go over it again, double check everything, make sure everything is signed correctly and make sure everything is balanced out correctly.”

Genesee County Clerk, John Gleason. (Photo source: Genesee County website)

Gleason asserted, “The board of canvassers were put under unexpected and unnecessary duress trying to rush through the process. I kept telling them, ‘Don’t go fast. Go at the speed to do it right.’ The canvass for last Tuesday’s election began on Wednesday, Nov. 3.  Monday’s swearing-in ceremony was only four days (business days) into the 12 days allowed by State law to certify an election.

City Clerk, Inez Brown, at a press conference during the 2020 elections. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Gleason explained, there was communication between the county and the City of Flint because there was one precinct that had an unbalanced ballot count. The City of Flint had to communicate with the board of canvassers to rectify that discrepancy, which it was.

“The county board of commissioners messed up,” Gleason stated

“You’re not supposed to have an elected official anywhere near that process [of counting ballots]. I’m elected and the board of canvassers certify my election. I’m not supposed to be anywhere involved in that process. It’s between the board of canvassers and the [city] clerk, not me, except to sign notifications to the community that everything is certified,”  Gleason said.

“I’m not supposed to be talking to the board of canvassers or the city clerks, that’s inappropriate,” he added.  “The media keeps asking, ‘Why aren’t you talking to the city clerk?’ Well, I’m not supposed to.”

“The only reason I said something [on Monday after Flint’s swearing-in ceremony] was because there was no way for me to shut it down — they’d already sworn them in. There was nothing that I could stop except the meeting [the regularly scheduled city council meeting which was to be held Monday at 7:30 p.m.]”

“Many people have asked why didn’t I call it in before?” Gleason responded, “I didn’t even know it had happened until it was over.”

Gleason explained that he doesn’t look at or examine the ballots —  that’s the job of the board of canvassers. Gleason said he signs the letter of determination that the board of canvassers provide to him once the ballots are counted.

EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at tomntravis@gmail.com.

Author: Tom Travis

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