Clinton Township Supervisor Robert Cannon, left, argues with Clinton Township Treasurer Paul Gieleghem about Gieleghem’s opposition to an early voting mailer. Cannon threatened to have Gieleghem removed from the meeting by Police Chief Dina Caringi, though this did not come to pass.

Clinton Township Supervisor Robert Cannon, left, argues with Clinton Township Treasurer Paul Gieleghem about Gieleghem’s opposition to an early voting mailer. Cannon threatened to have Gieleghem removed from the meeting by Police Chief Dina Caringi, though this did not come to pass.

Photo by Dean Vaglia

Clinton Township board argues over election mailer

By: Dean Vaglia | C&G Newspapers | Published January 5, 2024


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Another chapter in the partisan struggle on the Clinton Township Board of Trustees played out on the evening of Dec. 18 as the board rejected sending out an early voting mailer along party lines.

Trustees voted 3-3 on whether to approve hiring printer American Graphics Inc., of Clinton Township, to print an informational document about early voting in the township.

According to Clinton Township Clerk Kim Meltzer, the vote was held because the nearly $12,000 in quoted costs exceeded the township’s $10,000 limit for purchases that do not require board approval. Trustees Julie Matuzak and Mike Keys, and Clinton Township Treasurer Paul Gieleghem, all Democrats, voted “no” while Republicans Meltzer and Clinton Township Supervisor Robert Cannon were joined by Trustee Tammy Patton, a Democrat, in voting “yes.” The tied vote resulted in no action being approved, effectively rejecting the effort to send out the mailer.

The deadlocked vote came after heated arguments between the two camps raged for nearly 40 minutes. The united Democrats argued that the mailer’s information only focused on the Feb. 27 presidential primary election and that it lacked sufficient information about the trustee special election taking place the same day. The bipartisan trio argued to send the mailer out to meet state law requirements for informing the public about early voting procedures.

“There is a law that requires us to educate the public on early voting because early voting is a part of our constitution,” Meltzer said.

The board members who voted in favor of the mailer openly questioned the legitimacy of the Democrats’ objections as coming down solely to politics. Patton argued that Keys and Matuzak “wouldn’t be attacking Paul (Gieleghem) if he was the one doing all of this,” before Cannon and Gieleghem engaged in an argument over whether Gieleghem’s comments were sufficiently on-topic. Cannon went so far as threatening to have Clinton Township Police Chief Dina Caringi eject Gieleghem from the meeting.

Gieleghem’s comments varied between the timeliness of the mailer coming before the board, the content of the mailer and complaints about the board failing to appoint a new trustee earlier in the year. A plan to appoint a new board member from a list of applicants was approved along party lines at the July 31 meeting after Jennifer “Joie” West announced her resignation, but two meetings failed to meet quorum on Aug. 21 and Aug. 28 before a meeting was held on Sept. 18, missing the appointment deadline of Sept. 15.

“We have given Mrs. Meltzer a very, very broad stroke at running her operations, for being the clerk, for handling the records of the township,” Gieleghem said. “We have approved all of her spending items, we have approved all of her vendors, we have approved all of her staff increases and we approved most of her election issues. But we still have oversight over the spending of this township and we’re questioning — and appropriately so — why we’re spending $11,000 and what information we’re providing them and does it make the most amount of sense.”

Arguments between trustees were fierce. Aside from the treasurer nearly being subject to ejection and open questioning from both camps about the mailer’s purpose, Mentzer doubted the election knowledge of those opposing the mailer compared to what a clerk would know. Mentzer made special consideration regarding Matuzak by arguing the Democrat’s experience as one of the party’s two representatives on the Board of State Canvassers was not equivalent to that of the clerk’s on election matters, eliciting a response from the trustee.

“In the 10 years on the state board of canvassers, I have done nothing but try to promote voting, making it easier, increasing access and educating voters,” Matuzak said. “In addition to that, I have spent 40 years working in elections, and I can tell you people are generally not confused about voting in the broad sense … they are confused about voting in February.”

Despite the board failing to approve the mailer, Meltzer said via email she has authorized American Graphics Inc. to produce it and sent an invoice to Lansing to have the $12,000 paid for by state grant funds. Meltzer believes not sending the mailer could have put the township in violation of recent amendments to state law. The law says clerks are required to provide notice of approved early voting sites “by sending a separate notice by mail or other method designed to provide actual notice to the registered elector, and must not provide the notice by updating the voter identification card” and that the notice must be sent out “no later than 45 days before an election for a polling place or early voting site established or changed by the (60th) day before an election.”

Meltzer said she has reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union about the possible constitutional violation.

Information on the mailer dealt with how voters could request ballots, an overview of the early in-person voting process and where and when people could vote early. A QR code on the mailer would lead readers to the township’s 2024 election website for additional and updated voting information.