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Clinton Township clerk removed as FOIA coordinator, replaced by township attorney

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published March 18, 2020

 Kim Meltzer

Kim Meltzer

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — On March 2, Clinton Township Clerk Kim Meltzer was unanimously removed as the township’s Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, coordinator.

Township Attorney Jack Dolan, due to a township statute and being selected by the Board of Trustees, is the new coordinator.

On March 10, a contentious marijuana dispensary proposal was rejected by about 53% of township voters. The method in which signatures were collected and verified was a topic of discussion in the months leading up to said election.

A Feb. 28 letter addressed to the Board by Treasurer Paul Gieleghem, Trustee Ken Pearl and Trustee Mike Keys alleged that Meltzer denied multiple FOIA requests.

“By state law, the township clerk is the ‘keeper of records,’” the letter stated. “By Clinton Township policy, the township clerk is also designated as the FOIA coordinator. Recent developments prompt action by the township board to separate these roles.”

The trio stated that on Dec. 4, 2019, a FOIA request was issued for township records, but Meltzer denied it and reportedly charged $196.76 for them. On Jan. 9, it was alleged that Meltzer agreed to make records electronically available to Board of Trustees members. On Feb. 18, a Board resolution demanded delivery of the records by Feb. 24.

The three members said Meltzer’s reasons for denial varied, citing unclear requests, unpaid for requests, no reasoning based on requesting the information, taking too much time to complete requests, information couldn’t leave the Clerk’s Office, and that the request was made too close to the election.

“You say you’re not taking sides on this, but if you’re treating an elected official like this, I don’t know what you’re doing with the rest of the population, the residents,” Pearl said March 2, about one week prior to the residents’ voting.

Gieleghem said that the documents were Clinton Township documents and that board members not only asked for them, but “demanded” them.

“If you’re willing to do that to board members, what are you willing to do to the public? … We need to ensure the public that the job of FOIA is not overlooked. We need to ensure the public that they don’t have to fight to get the documents that they are entitled to; they don’t have to worry about being overcharged for them; and the attorney is in the position to make sure it is done,” he said.

Meltzer maintained she “never denied anybody anything they need,” citing how her office has complied with “tens of thousands of requests.”

Keys said it was Meltzer’s job to verify signatures, but “that is not where it ends.”

“I think it’s very important we clarify that yes, it is the job of the clerk to verify these,” Keys said. “But it is the role of the trustees and the role of the public to keep our elected officials accountable.”

Bishop D.L. Bradley, who was present with others at the meeting as part of the anti-marijuana coalition, said the process was skewed from the beginning.

“Kim, you’re not a fair arbiter in this,” he said. “You have a side, you have — I don’t want to use the word ‘agenda’ — but you have a position. You have a side.”

Resident Alice Viviano said “mistrust” in the community had brewed from how the proposal reached the election ballot in the first place, adding that “we’ve got to get this community back together.”

“It’s so contentious,” she said. “We don’t trust the petitions.”

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