A “vicious political stunt” and “ploy to gain votes for the opposition” were only two of the phrases used by Macomb Township officials Wednesday to describe recent allegations of election fraud made against the township and county clerks.
Stemming from a lawsuit filed by Macomb Township resident Mark Maiuri on July 19, these allegations call to question the validity of more than 50 signatures on supervisor candidate Janet Dunn's nominating petitions and claim wrongful denial of a Freedom of Information Act request.
For more than an hour, township employees, representatives of the township’s employee unions and residents addressed the board on this controversial issue, arguing both for and against the integrity of the clerk’s office and its ability to supervise the upcoming Aug. 7 primary election.
The lawsuit hinges on two points: that the clerk’s office did knowingly accept invalid signatures on Dunn’s nominating petitions as well as deny a FOIA request for a letter that the lawsuit suggests may support the allegations of fraud.
Maiuri, who was present at Wednesday’s meeting, once again requested the letter's release.
“If there is nothing to hide, then the light of day should support you,” he said. “Or maybe there is something to hide and it's called election fraud. Maybe the letter supports the allegations set forth in the lawsuit against the township. The public has the right and deserves to know that our liberties are not being trampled on.”
Residents request third party to oversee primary
Maiuri’s subsequent request to have a third party oversee the August primary election was supported by supervisor candidate Charles Missig.
“I’ve been going door-to-door for several weeks now and the hot topic as of yesterday and today is the news story that broke about the alleged voter fraud,” Missig said. “I don’t know if there is any credence to it. My only thought is we don’t want to lose the trust of our citizens here and it might be a good idea if we had somebody come in on Aug. 7 and perhaps oversee the election.”
Deputy Clerk Jim Gelios, Elections Supervisor Ed Carey and Records Supervisor Charles Pierce all rose to defend the ability of the clerk office’s to oversee a fair elections process.
“I am here tonight to defend my professional reputation, that of Mr. Koehs and that of our dedicated staff in the elections division,” Carey said. In response to the lawsuit’s claim that a handwriting expert found “extensive fraud” in the signatures on Dunn’s petitions, Carey said, “I find that statement not only utterly preposterous, but personally offensive.”
While Carey admitted finding duplicate signatures, unregistered names and “other deficiencies” on Dunn’s petitions, he said the same issues were noted on the petitions of “just about every candidate” and that those signatures were not counted in the final tally.
Deputy clerk calls out 'Mickey Mouse' signature on Imbronone petition
To illustrate this point, Gelios invited residents questioning the validity of Dunn’s signatures to look at clerk candidate Cathy Imbronone’s petitions, where one individual has signed his or her name as “Mickey Mouse.”
“My staff did not count this signature, nor did we file any lawsuits or accuse anyone of fraud,” Koehs said, referring to the section of Michigan election law which states that by signing a petition, a candidate acknowledges that it is to his or her best knowledge and belief that each signature is “the genuine signature of the person purporting to sign the petition.”
“I guess she met Mickey Mouse then because Mickey Mouse signed her petition,” Gelios said. “This is a misdemeanor under Michigan law.”
Of having her petitions cited in this lawsuit Dunn said, “This is primarily a political attempt to smear my good name and all of the good work done by this board to allow us to be one of the most financial stable communities in this state.”
That the lawsuit was filed 64 days after the deadline for challenging petition signatures and less than a month before the election date suggests this suit was filed “solely to generate negative publicity toward myself and Ms. Dunn,” Koehs said. “I refuse to have my staff, myself or this Township wrongfully accused by this vicious political stunt.”
While Supervisor Mark Grabow voiced support for having the county clerk oversee the August primary – if only to "set the record straight" – it is unknown at this time if such action will occur.
Is this lawsuit a 'vicious political stunt' or a valid question of township transparency? What do you think?