Southfield city clerk charged with multiple election felonies

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel | Ken Coleman
Updated, 4:55 p.m. 9/23/19 with comments from the city of Southfield:

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Monday announced six felony charges filed this morning in Oakland County 46th District Court against Southfield City Clerk Sherikia Hawkins.

Sherikia Hawkins

Nessel said the charges, which stem from the Nov. 6, 2018, general election, are:

  • Count one: election law – falsifying returns/ records, a five-year felony and/or $1,000
  • Count two: forgery of a public record, a 14-year felony
  • Count three: misconduct in office, a five-year felony and/or $10,000
  • Count four: Using a computer to commit a crime – election law – falsifying returns and records, a seven-year felony and/or $5,000
  • Count five: using a computer to commit a crime – forgery of a public record, a 10-year felony and/or $10,000
  • Count six: Using a computer to commit a crime – misconduct in office, a seven-year felony and/or $5,000

Hawkins was elected Southfield city clerk in November 2017. She previously served as city clerk of Pontiac, a non-elected position, where she was responsible for that city’s elections.

Dana Nessel | Ken Coleman

“When we took office [earlier this year], both Secretary Benson and I committed to doing everything in our power to make sure that Michigan’s elections were safe from every conceivable threat,” Nessel said at a news conference in Detroit. “That commitment – made to the people of this state – includes taking swift and decisive action when a public official fails to fulfill the important role that he or she plays in protecting the integrity of our elections.”

The discrepancies in the Southfield voter count were brought to Benson’s office by the Oakland County clerk’s office following efforts to certify the city’s absentee ballots. Michigan State Police conducted a thorough investigation and determined that election records had been altered.

Jocelyn Benson | Ken Coleman

“Today, upon learning that the Southfield City Clerk was formally charged with multiple crimes under Michigan election law, I exercised my authority under Michigan law to exert supervisory control over local election officials and directed the clerk to refrain from administering any election while there are charges pending against her,” Benson said. “Our elections are the foundation of our democracy, and under my and Attorney General Nessel’s administration there will be no tolerance for any actions that undermine that foundation – anywhere, anytime, by any person or official.”

Hawkins turned herself in and was charged and arraigned late this morning in the 46th District Court in Southfield. She was given a $15,000 personal bond and a probable cause conference was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 30. A preliminary examination hearing is set for Oct. 15.

“The City of Southfield is continuing to gather all of the pertinent facts associated with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office investigation of Southfield City Clerk Sherikia Hawkins,” Southfield city spokesman Michael Manion said in a statement. “The City does not have all of the facts at this time and there will be no rush to judgement. The City will also be conducting a thorough internal investigation and review of these charges. After the City has examined the underlying facts of this matter, we will explore all appropriate and legal avenues to protect the voting process and rights of the Southfield Citizenry. Mrs. Hawkins will be on administrative leave with pay at this time. The City of Southfield will continue to fully cooperate with the State of Michigan Attorney General’s Office and the Michigan State Police.”*

Sen. Jeremy Moss speaks at Affirmations in Ferndale, June 3, 2019 | Derek Robertson

State Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) and state Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden (D-Southfield) responded to the charges.

“As Southfield legislators, we are shocked by the charges brought against Clerk Hawkins. We support due process and the presumption of her innocence as she responds to them,” they said in a statement.

“Absentee ballots will start to go out this week for the upcoming November municipal election and Secretary Benson has removed Clerk Hawkins from administering this election. We can assure our Southfield neighbors that their votes will be counted.”

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman reports on Southeast Michigan, education, civil rights and voting rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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