HOUGHTON — Clerk Jennifer Kelly, who accused Davison School Board member Matthew Smith of making threatening phone calls to her earlier this month, has been named in a lawsuit filed by a Houghton County Clerk’s office employee who claims Kelly wrongfully accused her of making threats.
The Eliason Law Office in Hancock, who is representing clerk’s office employee Beverly Smith (no relation to Matthew Smith), filed the lawsuit on behalf of Smith after an email that was widely and improperly circulated by Kelly on Oct. 19 to 14 employees, officials, judges and former employees at the Houghton courthouse.
According to Eliason, in a press release Tuesday, Kelly falsely claims Beverly Smith threatened to kill her in the email and wrongfully and improperly reprimanded Ms. Smith.
Eliason said the email follows an attempt by Kelly to terminate Beverly Smith over a customer complaint that allegedly arose as a direct result of Kelly’s “misguidance and lack of communication.”
The release says several Houghton County employees and officials have been in contact with the Eliason Law Office expressing similar concerns over Kelly’s “violations of policy, mismanagement, cronyism, and dishonesty.”
The press release does not name the other employees, nor does it offer instances of such violations.
The Eliason Law Office also represents Justin Kasieta, Kelly’s opponent in the Nov. 3 election. Kasieta is accused of having been involved in an early morning phone call in March, in which Kelly says she was threatened.
Kasieta and Matthew Smith, Facebook friends at the time, were allegedly both involved in a “threatening” phone call to Kelly back in March.
Matthew Smith was linked to the call through phone records, but claims he was the victim of someone using a phone app to “prank” his phone.
Kelly claimed Matthew Smith, who is currently running for 9th District Genesee County Commissioner, made threats in the 1 a.m. phone call to kill her dogs and dispose of them 20 in a dumpster.
Smith and Kasieta have both denied the charges.
The Michigan Attorney General’s office is investigating the claims following a report issued by the Michigan State Police earlier in October.
According to the Eliason Law Office press release, Kelly sent a similar email Dec. 19, 2019 improperly disclosing non-public information and reprimands of employees.
The Dec. 19 email led to union involvement and the Houghton County board reprimanding her on March 5. In that reprimand, the board determined Kelly created an ‘environment of hostility’ in the clerk’s office, said Eliason.
Eliason’s claims in the release the case is supported by an affidavit of the Union Steward acknowledging no threat was made against Kelly by Beverly Smith.
Kelly said she just received notice of the lawsuit late Monday.
“I have not even had a chance to look at it all yet,” she said. “My legal counsel is also looking at it. I should have a statement very soon.”
A statement from Kelly was not available at press time, Wednesday.
Matthew Smith, in a statement to the Index, said these accusations against Kelly by her own staff, in his opinion, shed new light on the claims she’s made against him.
“Over the course of the last week while I’ve been focused on my election to become the next County Commissioner, the Democrat establishment have been pushing a false narrative accusing me of making threats,” said Smith. “I’ve stated publicly, and I’ll say it again: I have never threatened Ms. Kelly or her animals as alleged. These defamatory and disgusting allegations from eight months ago have spiraled out of control when they were blasted to the media in a coordinated effort just days before an election.
“Now, I am learning this week that Ms. Kelly is falsely accusing her own county clerk staff member of threatening to kill her with a car and a lawsuit has been filed for defamation of character and false accusations. Ms. Kelly and the Democrats need to stop this smear campaign and accusing people of false allegations of threats.”