Clinton TownshipJuly 30, 2012
Township addresses clerk’s office staffing for elections
By Nico Rubello
C & G Staff Writer
CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The Clinton Township Board of Trustees voted unanimously July 26 to hire an independent third party to assist the clerk’s office through the upcoming elections.
The decision came after some residents and township board members raised questions about whether the clerk’s office was ready to run the Aug. 7 primary and Nov. 6 general election amid reduced staffing levels and concerns about the integrity of the process.
“Above and beyond any other consideration, we have to make sure we have an election that occurs; it’s compliant with the law; and it’s done in a context where there’s faith in the electoral process,” said Township Attorney Jack Dolan. “As the process unfolds, experienced, objective eyes are observing it to see that it is done correctly.”
Elections in Clinton Township are run by the clerk’s office.
The board also gave Dolan the authority to negotiate a working relationship between Fitzgerald and his staff.
On June 4, six of the seven township trustees voted to request Fitzgerald’s resignation and bar him and his wife, Julie, from the clerk’s office following accusations that they had intimidated and bullied clerk’s office staffers. Fitzgerald was the only “no” vote.
Fitzgerald, an elected official who is not obligated to comply with the board’s decisions, has denied any wrongdoing.
The clerk was given a separate office in the township Civic Center, and has been in contact with the clerk’s office by email.
Fitzgerald entered the clerk’s office on July 25, prompting the Board of Trustees to bring up the issue at a special July 26 session.
George and Julie Fitzgerald said they decided to enter the office after receiving an email from Deputy Clerk Kim Irvine, in which Irvine said staffing was an issue and qualified workers with election experience were needed to work in the office.
The clerk’s office staff is down to two full-time workers from the previous five: Two have taken medical leave due to stress, and an election coordinator has retired, citing a “hostile work environment.”
Fitzgerald said his isolation from the clerk’s office is hindering his duties as clerk.
One of the remaining employees and an attorney representing Irvine said staffers preferred things the way are now, with Fitzgerald separated and communicating with them by email.
Irvine said three temporary workers have been helping to handle absentee ballots. With the assistance of a qualified third party, she was satisfied that the election could be carried out.
Fitzgerald, who was elected as clerk in 2008, added that he has supervised 16 township elections and a recount without a flaw.
Dolan said Fitzgerald is still the duly elected clerk, and the board doesn’t have the authority to transfer his duties by state statute.
As of press time, a suggestion as to who the independent third party would be was expected at the board’s July 30 meeting.
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