FLINT – Genesee County Clerk John Gleason was arrested Friday and charged with allegedly intimidating members of his staff to alter documents pertaining to a 2019 incident where he was accused of performing a marriage outside his jurisdiction.
A complaint was authorized April 7 against Gleason, 68, for alleged conduct between December 2019-March 2022 and two charges were brought against him.
Gleason is charged with one count of bribing/intimidating/interfering, a 4-year feloy and/or $5,000, and a second count of willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
He was arrested Friday in his office at the Genesee County Courthouse and was lodged in the Genesee County Jail.
A judge set a personal recognizance bond for Gleason at a hearing Friday afternoon.
The case is being brought by Mark Reene, special prosecutor from Tuscola County, who has been investigating the charges against Gleason for more than two years.
The charges stem back to an incident Dec. 24, 2019 at Memorial Healthcare in Owosso where Gleason performed a marriage, which is outside his jurisdiction. The couple wanted to be married just before giving birth to their child, according to reports.
The Shiawassee County clerk said she gave verbal consent for the wedding, but no written permission or official marriage license was issued. Michigan law says Gleason could be guilty of a misdemeanor if he did not receive written permission.
Gleason reportedly said he asked officials in Shiawassee County to validate the marriage about a month later. When they refused, he allegedly asked his own staff to validate the wedding and back date the forms.
Employees in the clerk’s office at that time reported to Genesee County human resources they were intimidated by Gleason to backdate the paperwork to make it valid.
Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton recused himself to avoid any kind of conflict of interest involving Gleason and turned the case over to Reene from Tuscola County.
“They strike me as individuals who simply wanted to come to work, serve the public and do a good job,” said Reene. “And unfortunately, they encountered the behavior that has resulted in our coming together today to address what has happened.”
Reene said throughout his investigation people have come forward with more information about Gleason and other potential issues, but he did not elaborate.
The judge in the case set May 19 for a probable cause hearing, followed by a preliminary exam May 25.
Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said the arrest of Gleason brings up questions about the upcoming May 3 election, especially since Deputy Clerk Kathy Funk is also facing criminal charges in an unrelated matter.
“With both clerk and deputy clerk charged in separate instances, it begs the question ‘what do we do to maintain the integrity of the system’?” said Swanson.
He said he had spoken with Domonique Clemons, chairman of the Genesee County Board of Commissioners, and was assured a special meeting of the commission would be called to address the future of elections in the county during the legal issues involving the clerk and his deputy.
Gleason has served as county clerk and register of deeds since 2013.
Previously, he served in the Michigan Senate from 2009 through 2012 and in the state House from 2003 through 2006. Before his election to the Legislature, he served on the Genesee County Board of Commissioners.