EUREKA TOWNSHIP — Greenville Public Schools has filed a petition for a ballot recount in Eureka Township even as the township clerk is being investigated by the Michigan State Police for alleged election fraud.
Eureka Township Clerk Linda Ruwersma has come under fire for a text message she sent to what she says were “about six” people in which Ruwersma identified herself as township clerk and reminded them to vote in the May 2 school bond vote — and encouraged them to vote “no.”
The text message was sent out 19 minutes before Township Hall opened for early voting on Saturday, April 29. The text was accompanied by an attached document of reasons to vote against the school bond with “VOTE NO” printed in large letters at the bottom of the document.
The school’s $52 million bond proposal failed by 69 votes — 1,764 “no” votes to 1,695 “yes” votes.”
Complicating matters are allegations that Ruwersma’s husband Wes — who serves on the township’s Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of review — took school flyers left at the Township Hall for voters, altered them to campaign against the school bond and distributed them throughout the Greenville Meijer parking lot prior to the May 2 vote.
Michigan State Police Lakeview Post Det. Ed Doyle is handling the investigation.
“I received a call from the school administration concerning potential voter fraud,” Doyle told The Daily News. “I have met with several administrators, spoken with (Montcalm) County Clerk Kristen Millard and interviewed numerous people, including the Eureka Township clerk. All of the people I have spoken with so far have been cooperative and are providing all the assistance requested.
“We are now waiting for additional information that may take a few days, including a potential recount that is being requested by the school administration,” he said. “Once all of the documents have been received, the case will be evaluated to see if any further action will be taken.”
Greenville Public Schools Superintendent Linda VanHouten filed the recount petition with the Montcalm County Clerk’s Office on Thursday. Greenville Public Schools paid $125 to initiate the recount.
“Greenville Public Schools is petitioning for a recount of the votes cast in the precinct of Eureka Township,” VanHouten wrote in her letter. “We believe fraudulent activity has taken place and we have concerns about the conduct of the township clerk leading up to the district’s bond vote on May 2.”
A total of 819 Eureka Township voters participated in the school bond vote, accounting to the initial vote count — 415 voted “no” and 398 voted “yes.”
According to Millard, the recount is tentatively scheduled for May 23 at the Township Hall.
Greenville Public Schools Chief Operations Officer Korie Crawford filed several Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests with Eureka Township on May 4 and 5. The requests ask for the following:
• Any and all correspondence in writing, email, text or image that was distributed from or received by Linda Ruwersma or Wes Ruwersma from Feb. 1 through May 4 which is in the possession of any Eureka Township official.
• A complete voter list of all Eureka Township residents who voted May 2.
• An accounting and list of everyone who voted using an absentee ballot, including a denotation of any absentee ballot that was turned in on Saturday, April 29.
• A copy of all employment records for Linda Ruwersma.
• A copy of any and all complaints or citations (previous, current and pending) with any ties to Linda Ruwersma’s position as township clerk or any other position help by a member of the Ruwersma family at Eureka Township.
• Information as to any expenses paid from the township to or for the Ruwersma household, including a list of any and all benefits afforded to either Wes or Linda Ruwersma through their affiliation with Eureka Township. This request is included but not limited to pay, in-kind benefits, cell phone service or allowance, internet or technology or wifi service or allowance and all other services or allowances paid to either Linda or Wes Ruwersma or paid on their behalf at any time during the last 18 months.
• Any correspondence between Linda Ruwersma and any other township official regarding the May 2 election.
• An accounting of all absentee ballots cast May 2, including the date the ballot was requested, the date and time each ballot was received at Eureka Township and the name and position of the Eureka Township official who signed off on each ballot.
The township invoked a 10-day extension regarding the FOIA, which extends the response to 15 business days.
Crawford also requested the township appoint a different FOIA coordinator to answer her request, as Linda Ruwersma is the township’s FOIA coordinator. The township denied this request but noted Township Supervisor Rodney Roy will assist Ruwersma with the FOIA requests.