The clerk responsible for organizing elections in Everett Township in Newaygo County entered a no-contest plea Wednesday in court to a felony perjury charge.
Roshelle Wright still will oversee next Tuesday's election in Everett Township. However, the agreement with the prosecutor's office and judge requires she withdraw as a candidate for the clerk position.
Authorities say Wright lied on her voting affidavit and lives in Ottawa County even though she listed an address in Everett Township on that county document.
A trial on that charge started Tuesday, Nov. 1, in White Cloud. The trial was scheduled to resume Thursday morning around 9 a.m.
But just before the first scheduled witness was called to the stand, Wright and her attorney accepted a plea deal from the prosecutors office.
Wright entered a no-contest plea to the five-year felony Michigan election law charge. Sentencing on the charge will be delayed for 10 months. During that time, Wright will be on probation.
During day one of the bench trial, Newaygo County Prosecutor Robert Springstead offered 14 documents in an effort to convince the judge Wright is living in Allendale.
Residency is required for her position
"I still split my week just like I did back then," Wright said.
Wright says some nights she stays in Allendale, other nights at the Everett Township address she listed on the affidavit of identity she filed with the Newaygo County Clerk. Wright still believes her time at the Trailside Lodge and at a friends home in Everett Township satisfies the residency requirement.
She blames Everett Township board members for her court troubles. Says they don't like her because she attempted to hold them accountable for a possible violation of the state's open meetings act.
"Sometimes the truth doesn't win," said Wright, "and the crooked and corrupt people of Newaygo County that have been out for a witch hunt since day one they win."
"She never should have been on the ballot in the first place," Springstead said.
Various state and county records show Wright established residency as defined by law in Allendale. Numerous official documents signed by Wright indicate her Allendale address.
Springstead says because of the residency issue Wright isn't qualified to hold the position of township clerk.
Wright believes the charges are the result of small-town politics. Prosecutor Springstead is the chair of the Republican party in Newaygo County.
Wright is a Democrat.
"It did not factor in at all," Springstead said.
Springstead says after reviewing state police reports, he had to file charges to protect the integrity of the election.
"It is one of the most important thing we do is elect our officials, and people have to have faith that the candidates for office are legitimate," he said.
If Wright successfully completes probationary period, the charge will be reduced to a 90-day misdemeanor.
The Newaygo County Clerk is in communication with the state election office to see if ballots with Wright's name need to be changed and how to handle absentee ballots that have already been sent to voters.
The state's deadline for a candidate to withdraw has passed.