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Michigan school board member sentenced to probation for ‘malicious’ phone call

Matthew Smith, left, has been placed on one year of probation, ordered to pay $650 in fines and...
Matthew Smith, left, has been placed on one year of probation, ordered to pay $650 in fines and costs, and ordered to have no contact with Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Kelly, who he admitted to calling on March 6, 2020.(Source: WNEM)
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 9:00 AM EST
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GENESSEE COUNTY, Mich. (WNEM/Gray News) - The Genesee County Republican Party Chair, who also serves on the Davison School Board of Education, has been sentenced for a phone call incident.

Matthew Smith has been placed on one year of probation, ordered to pay $650 in fines and costs and ordered to have no contact with Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Kelly, who he admitted to calling on March 6, 2020. Smith said he made the call to help a friend of his, WNEM reported.

Kelly claims Smith threatened to kill her dogs, but Smith has denied he made that threat.

Smith pleaded guilty as part of the plea deal during his final pre-trial hearing on Nov. 22. He has been charged with one count of malicious use of telecommunication services.

As part of his sentencing, Smith must also complete a cognitive awareness program as well as a 1,000-word essay about political bullying in society.

The court accepted the Holmes Youthful Training Act that was agreed upon in the plea agreement. Smith will not be required to find a full-time job, but he does need to complete 240 hours of community service, excluding the Davison area.

The Committee for School Board Integrity, who started a petition to recall and replace Smith on the board of education, called him a “convicted criminal.” saying in part, “he has demonstrated that he continues to lack the emotional maturity and integrity to serve on our local school board.”

The group called on Smith to resign: “Our community can then move on with leaders who don’t have these issues, have done their growing up already and who follow the Cardinal Code.”

“He did apologize to me several times once he spoke. I got very emotional,” Kelly said. “I feel relieved. I hope Matt Smith truly does never do anything like this again.”

Smith said he has no plans to walk away.

“Absolutely not. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not stepping down from anything. I made a little mistake by calling a Democrat official and giving her criticism late at night. It’s been blown out of proportion to threatening dogs, threatening her, that’s been proven today in court it never happened,” Smith said.

Kelly insisted that Smith did threaten to poison and kill her dogs.

“For the last two years I’ve been falsely accused of threatening to poison and kill dogs and that never happened,” Smith said.

“The phone call was a call of criticism. I wasn’t even paying attention to what time it was. Obviously, my friend was running against her. And it was criticizing her job performance. It was trying to figure out stuff going on with the unions. She was under heavy fire the previous day for unions. I apologize for that. No one should be called late at night and startled,” Smith said.

With the case being over, Smith said he looks forward to moving on, which is what Kelly said she is trying to do as well.

“It’s a tough thing to go through. I don’t wish it on anybody,” Kelly said.

Smith is a former freelance employee of WNEM.

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