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People call on Kasieta, Smith to step down from roles

Kasieta

HOUGHTON — Fallout from an alleged threatening phone call to the Houghton County clerk involving her opponent continued Thursday.

Residents of the downstate Davison Community Schools district are petitioning the district to oust Matthew Smith, a school board member and Genesee County Board candidate, who is alleged to have made the call to Clerk Jennifer Kelly in March. Kelly said the caller had called her a “f—— b—-“ and threatened to kill her dogs.

Phone records included with a Houghton County Sheriff’s Office incident report indicated the call had come from Smith’s phone.

Democratic State House candidate Janet Metsa called on current Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock, to condemn the call. Justin Kasieta, the clerk candidate alleged to have listened in on the call, works as a constituent representative for Markkanen.

Metsa commended Kelly for going to law enforcement early, pointing to the kidnapping plot against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as an example of how “words can escalate into action if unaddressed.”

“Intimidation of a political opponent is not a childish prank,” she said in a statement Thursday. “It is illegal and has no place in political life.”

In statements to the Houghton County sheriff, Kasieta said the call had been Smith’s idea. While he admitted Smith had used profanity in the calls, he said Smith had only expressed concern for the welfare of the dogs in Kelly’s home, according to a Houghton County incident report.

Smith denied having made the call, saying his number had been spoofed, the report said.

The state Attorney General’s office is investigating the case. It could not be reached for an update Thursday.

In her release, Metsa said Kasieta lacked the “maturity, integrity or respect for the district’s constituents” that Markkanen’s constituent representative should have. If Markkanen does not fire Kasieta, Kasieta should resign, she said.

“Representative Markkanen has worked with Mr. Kasieta for years and has also strongly supported his run against Ms. Kelly,” she said. “As a public official, Mr. Markkanen needs to immediately and forcefully condemn all such acts of political intimidation. If he has known about the threatening call investigation for many months, he should also explain why Mr. Kasieta remains officially in his employ.”

Markkanen declined to comment Thursday.

Houghton County Commissioner Glenn Anderson also called on Kasieta to drop out of the race during Tuesday’s county board meeting.

Kasieta is not the only one facing fallout from the call. An online petition asking the Davison district to remove Smith from the board had received 540 signatures as of Thursday afternoon. Superintendent Kevin Brown and Board President Kathy Sudia could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Under Michigan law, Smith can be removed through a recall petition and election, or if the governor finds evidence of gross neglect of duty, corrupt conduct in office or other “misfeasance and malfeasance.”

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