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Employee Sues Houghton County Clerk

An employee of the Houghton County Clerk’s office has filed a lawsuit against County Clerk Jennifer Kelly. 

A release from the Eliason Law Office in Hancock says the four-count suit stems from an email sent by Kelly on October 19th about employee Beverly Smith. In the email, Kelly is said to have falsely claimed that Smith threatened to kill Kelly. A copy of the email and supporting documents were provided. The suit alleges that the e-mail followed an attempt by Kelly to terminate Smith over a customer complaint. 

The release says that several Houghton County employees and officials have been in contact with the Eliason Law Office expressing similar concerns over Kelly’s ”violations of policy, mismanagement, cronyism, and dishonesty.” It does not name them, nor does it offer any further instances of such violations.

The release goes on to connect the alleged recent email to an incident last December, which led to a closed-session meeting between Kelly and the Houghton County Board of Commissioners. Because it involved personnel issues, no details about that meeting were released at the time.

At this point, Kelly is the sole target of the suit. The release hints that Houghton County could also become a target. 

The Eliason Law Office also represents Justin Kasieta, who is running against Kelly in the November 3rd election. Kasieta is accused of having been involved in an early morning phone call in March, in which Kelly says she was threatened. The Michigan Attorney General’s office is reviewing the result of a Michigan State police investigation into that call.

In an email response to Keweenaw Report, attorney Matthew Eliason admitted that the timing of the lawsuit was fortuitous for Kasieta, but said it was not planned. He also said that, at this point, there is no conflict of interest in representing both Kasieta and Smith, so long as they agree, and their interests coincide.

Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Kelly declined to provide a formal response to Keweenaw Report.

See the full release and associated legal documents here.

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