FLINT TWP. — Robert Swartwood, a Clio attorney, who said he represented a group of concerned citizens, asked the township board for a written response to a legal question raised recently about a township employee who is a candidate for political office.
The question was first raised last month by a resident during public comment. Swartwood referenced township personnel policy 207 which he said requires that a township employee running for political office must take a leave of absence.
He specified that his remarks pertained to Kathy Funk, an administrative assistant in the clerk’s office, who is a candidate for clerk. Swartwood argued that being in the township office on a daily basis gives Funk an unfair political advantage over other candidates.
Swartwood also referenced past instances when township employees Ed Burns and George Finch abided by the personnel policy and went on extended leave while running for public office.
Swartwood said he requested a response about Funk’s status several months ago and was referred to the township attorney, who transferred the issue to another attorney in Lansing. Swartwod said he was told about six weeks ago that he would receive a written response but has heard nothing since.
“On behalf of my clients, I am asking the board to rectify this situation,” he said.
Trustee Frank Kasle asked Swartwood to identify his clients. Swartwood declined but said that some of them were present and could identify themselves if they wanted to.
Kasle then asked if some of his clients also are candidates for public office. Swartwood said he did not know. Township Karyn Miller said that the township is in compliance with state law and terms in the labor union contract which supersede the township’s personnel policy.
However, Funk has requested and will take a leave of absence 30 days before the August 2 primary.
Clerk Kim Courts added that she is following the advice from the township attorney to the letter. She noted that Funk is a union member and the previous two employees mentioned by Swartwood were not.
Funk was not given permission to speak during the board meeting but in a statement afterward said she works as the clerk’s administrative assistant and not in the elections division.
“The only ballot I will touch or have access to is my own,” she said. She also said that she does not campaign during working hours.
Funk is facing three opponents for the clerk’s job which Courts is vacating. Other candidates are Alex Clark, LaVonna Harris and Shawn MacGillivray-Heston. All are Democrats which means that the August winner will likely advance uncontested to the general election in November.