GENESEE COUNTY, MI (WJRT) — Genesee County Clerk John Gleason is under fire for allegedly performing an illegal marriage outside the county and asking coworkers to help cover his tracks.
His coworkers are accusing Gleason of harassment and gender discrimination for his actions after the December wedding in Shiawassee County.READ MORE: MRLA Offering Free Food Safety Classes for Kids
ABC12 obtained emails involving a dozen Genesee County employees through the Freedom of Information Act. They reveal interactions with the clerk that sources say led to a criminal investigation.
The employees involved either didn’t return messages seeking comment or declined to discuss the case on camera.
Gleason married a couple on Dec. 24 at Memorial Healthcare in Owosso, which is outside his jurisdiction. The couple wanted to be married just before giving birth to their baby girl.
“The most important thing to remember is the couple wanted to be married before the birth, which I think most mothers would want that — both parents would want that to — I know I would like my daughter to be before she had children,” Gleason said.
The Shiawassee County clerk said she gave verbal consent for the wedding, but no written permission or official marriage license was issued.
Without written consent, Michigan law states Gleason could be guilty of a misdemeanor. But he believes he shouldn’t be found guilty because the wedding was an emergency.
The Shiawassee County clerk said she couldn’t answer specific questions about why she didn’t give written consent for Gleason to perform the marriage because of the ongoing criminal investigation.
However, she pointed out that Gleason left out quite a few details from their conversation.
Gleason said he asked Shiawassee County officials to validate the marriage about a month later. When they refused, he asked his own staff to validate the wedding and back date the forms.
Gleason’s staff claims he harassed them when they refused.
An email from a supervisor in the Clerk’s Office to Genesee County human resources officials dated Jan. 28 says an employee she supervises came to her “terribly upset and afraid that she would get in trouble if she didn’t do as he requested.”
The supervisor explains that instead of calling the employee into his office, Gleason instead took the employee into the hallway, where he asked her to back date the paperwork needed to validate the marriage.
“When the employee said no and explained the legal and clerical reasons why not, Mr. Gleason continued to insist that the employee create and back date the records,” the supervisor’s email says.
The supervisor wrote to human resources that his request is “unusual, inappropriate and illegal.” She told the human resources director that she’s writing to her because she “would like to discuss with you the county’s policy(ies) with regard to sexual harassment, general harassment and intimidation.”
The supervisor is accusing Gleason of using his power of authority to get the employee to break the law.
Gleason denies harassing any Clerk’s Office staff while handling the issue.READ MORE: Whitmer: $32M Investment To Recruit, Retain Police Officers
“I never told her — I never demanded she do this,” he said. “She was definitely not harassed. I asked her — there’s no. We sat down on a bench. A very friendly exchange — very, very friendly exchange.”
The rest of the emails reveal that Gleason went upstairs to the Probate Court office after he didn’t get what he wanted from his employee. He allegedly asked two women working there to help adjust the documents.
An email says he was told the probate court does “not have anything to do with marriages…”
From there, the complaint says Gleason made the following comments to the women working at the probate court office: “Ya know, I have two kids at home just like you. They don’t know anything either.”
He allegedly continued to press the women to let him see the court administrator, who wasn’t in the office. The complaint says Gleason told them: “Look at that. It takes two women to do his job for him.”
One of those women told human resources officials in an email that she was embarrassed by Gleason’s “misogynistic and condescending remarks.”
“His inappropriate behavior was completely uncalled for,” the probate court employee’s email says. “No one should feel they have the authority to degrade me, or any other woman, this way.”
Gleason denies making any misogynistic or condescending remarks to probate court staff members.
“I don’t even — I remember speaking to a lady trying to get information on how do we do a secret marriage. I don’t know,” he said.
Sources say police are investigating whether Gleason committed a misdemeanor by performing an illegal wedding or whether he committed a felony of misconduct in office.
Besides the criminal investigation, the Genesee County Board of Commissioners confirm the allegations won’t be overlooked among county government leaders.
In a statement, the board says, “Genesee County is using an independent investigator to review the alleged allegations made by employees in regards to the Genesee County Clerk. We will have no further comment in this manner until this investigation is complete.”
Gleason, who would only speak to ABC12 on Thursday with his public relations consultant present, said he’s not sure why he’s the focus of a criminal investigation.
“I mean, I don’t consider myself being out of line through this process,” he said.
Gleason even is asking State Rep. Tim Sneller to write a bill that would legalize what he did for the couple — performing what he considered an emergency marriage without a license.
Sneller confirmed he’s considering drafting that bill, but there’s nothing in the works right now.MORE NEWS: Deputies Find Human Remains In Mid-Michigan Soybean Field
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