Clerk wants do-over of county commission organizational meeting

GENESEE COUNTY — County Clerk John Gleason is calling foul on the Genesee County Board of Commissioners after they held their annual organizational meeting, presiding over their own swearing in and the election of officers.

Gleason said it is standard practice for clerks to chair the first meeting of the year for county commissions, and some other bodies, until newly elected members are sworn in and officers are appointed so there is a new chair in place.

That point was supported by Lapeer County Clerk Theresa Spencer and Mary Kay Scullion, who was with Michigan House of Representatives for more than 30 years. Her most recent positions were Clerk of the House, Assistant Clerk Parliamentarian, and House Democratic Legal Counsel and Counsel to the Speaker.

At that organizational meeting, held Jan. 2, Ted Henry was elected chairman of the county board, while Commissioner Mark Young, who was also a candidate for the position of chairman, was running the meeting.

“It was an inappropriate transfer of power,” said Gleason. “I believe they prostituted that process.”

Gleason said now he wants the county commission to repeat its organizational meeting, not to necessarily change the outcome, but to include him in the process by having him serve as chair.

Scullion confirmed that in most Michigan counties, the clerk chairs the commission’s first meeting of the year until a chairperson is selected. But the commission has bypassed this custom for several years now with the commissioners presiding over themselves – including the swearing in of newly elected commissioners and the appointment of officers.

While Gleason disputes that, both Scullion and Spencer said that while it is unusual for a board to conduct itself in that manner, it is not necessarily illegal. The practice seems to be based on an opinion by former Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley which suggests county clerks should act as the chairperson for all organizational meetings.

Gleason said he may take legal action to require the county clerk to run future organizational meetings. He said he will ask Henry to consider his request for a re-do of the organizational meeting.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, who serves as corporate counsel to the commission, has reportedly said the commissioners acted appropriately by handling the annual meeting as they did.

Commissioner David Martin (R-Davison), said he was considering a request for a new organizational meeting.

“I have already submitted bylaw revision to standardize our annual organizational meeting chaired by the clerk,” said Martin, in an email. “No need for the board to annually set the format as this will establish the format as our law. Also, I’m giving thought to asking for a ‘redo’ but it changes nothing and my proposed bylaw revisions, if adopted, will prevent future confusion.”

At press time Martin was waiting to hear back from the Board of Commissioners about whether there would be a redo of the meeting.

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