Decision in: Scio Township Clerk v. Scio Township Board of Trustees
A decision was issued on December 21, 2023, by the State of Michigan Court of Appeals, in the case of Scio Township Clerk v. Scio Township Board of Trustees.
This case goes back to April 2022.
At the April 12, 2022 township board of trustees meeting, Scio Township Clerk Jessica Flintoft announced then she as the duly elected clerk on April 11, filed suit against the township board in Washtenaw County Circuit Court. She said she was seeking injunctive relief to remedy the township’s emergency and longstanding need for greater financial staff at the township and to roll back certain legal actions the township board of trustees had taken over the past eight months to erode the clerk’s office statutory responsibilities related to finance.
Flintoft said at that April 2022 meeting, “You’ve diminished checks and balances, you’ve eroded staff to the breaking point and you’ve created an environment that is too susceptible to potential malfeasance. Our township deserves better. This must stop.”
“It was only after deep consideration that I decided to take this step,” she said at that April 12 meeting. “This board left me no other choice. As you know as well, as part of it, I filed a motion with the court to seek a restraining order against this board to prevent the cancelation or modification of the emergency contract with Rehmann Robson that was signed appropriately by the treasurer and I on March 16, has a term of March 17 to June 30 to carry out our very basic accounts payable and payroll functions. That motion is scheduled with the court, Judge Connors, Thursday, April 21 at 11:30, next Thursday. That’s all.”
After the court of appeals decision on Dec. 21, 2023, Flintoft issued this statement to the press:
“I am deeply disappointed in the Michigan Court of Appeals opinion issued this morning in Scio Township Clerk v. Scio Township Board (case #363414). I respectfully disagree with the Court’s opinion. I believe it is legally inconsistent with my authority as an independent constitutional officer elected by the people, with Michigan statute (MCL 41.65 and MCL 41.75a), and with the written opinion of Scio Township Attorney James A. Fink.”
“I feel that the Court did not appreciate the legal significance of the difference between “custody of” records and “access to” records. The statute (MCL 41.65) says that the Clerk has custody of most Township records, including the accounting records. The Court adopted the Board’s argument that “concurrent access” to the Clerk’s records does not interfere with my custody of those records. In fact, the Board continues to interfere with my ability to protect the integrity of public records by removing my control over who may manipulate the accounting records of the Township.”
“The Board of Trustee’s idea that there could be “concurrent custody” of records, and the Court of Appeals’ affirmance of that position, is a first in Michigan history that runs counter to the Michigan Constitution and MCL 41.65 and MCL 41.75a.”
“The Board of Trustees falsely stated in its brief to the Court that I, as Clerk, have “enterprise administrator” access in the BS&A modules, which contain the Township’s accounting records. The Board’s counsel made the same misstatement at the December 7th oral argument, which the Court of Appeals adopted. This is verifiably untrue, as my counsel informed the Court of Appeals on December 7th to no avail, and which has been untrue since May 13, 2022 when the Board of Trustees first removed my control over who may manipulate the Township’s accounting records. The Board of Trustees continues to allow unauthorized access to and manipulation of the accounting records, as has been corroborated by negative financial audit findings reported to the State by the Township’s auditor for the past two years.”
“Although unpublished, this opinion potentially sets a troubling precedent for all custodians of public records—Township Clerks, City Clerks, County Clerks, the Secretary of State. Protecting the independence of Clerks in Michigan is essential to having a functional democratic government.”
“For these reasons, I continue to be extremely concerned for the integrity of Scio Township’s public records which, in light of this opinion, remain unprotected.”
After the April 12, 2022 meeting, the Sun Times News (STN) reached out to township supervisor Will Hathaway to get his response to Flintoft’s announcement at that time.
In April 2022, Hathaway said by email:
“From what I have seen, the lawsuit is a restatement of several baseless accusations and grievances that the clerk has put forward over the past several months. There is no substance to the claims.”
“The clerk's lawsuit seeks to reverse multiple, legitimate actions taken by the elected Board of Trustees. These votes by the Board majority are decisions with which the clerk disagrees. She lost these votes, and now she is suing to overturn the results she doesn't like. The clerk's lawsuit is an attempt to negate the authority of the Board while increasing the unilateral power of the clerk.”
“It is disappointing that the clerk chose to escalate her disagreement with the Board majority in this manner. It reflects poorly on her as an elected official of the Township. Unfortunately, the clerk's decision to sue the Board of Trustees has the potential to damage the public perception of Scio Township. This lawsuit is a political tactic launched by an individual who is willing to make personal attacks and tear down the Township she was elected to serve in order to get her way.”
With the court of appeals decision issued, STN followed up with Hathaway, who responded by email on Dec. 22, 2023:
“I was glad to see that the Court of Appeals affirmed the Circuit Court's ruling to dismiss Clerk Flintoft's lawsuit,” Hathaway said. “I hope that the Board of Trustees can put this unfortunate conflict behind us and work together as a team to address the real issues of concern to Scio Township.”
Hathaway said this conflict has been ongoing since 2021. He said it turned into litigation by the clerk against the township in 2022.
“Hopefully this will be the end of the litigation,” Hathaway said.
Hathaway said there are records of the court filings on the township's website.
To see the documents related to this case, go to: