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Macomb County files suit to try to kick its troublesome clerk out

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio
Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger

Macomb County says its clerk and register of deeds, Karen Spranger, is not eligible to hold the office she won in November. 

Spranger sued the County earlier in the year, after she was not permitted to fire union employees in her office.

County attorneys filed a counter-complaint Tuesday, alleging Spranger lied about where she was living when she filed her application to run for County Clerk. 

The address Spranger claimed, under penalty of perjury, was her primary residence has had water and other utilities shut off since 2012.

The counter-complaint points out the Michigan Tax Tribunal had previously refused Spranger homestead and property tax exemptions, ruling the lack of utilities showed she didn't live at the Warren home that has also received nuisance maintenance citations.

Spranger's attorney, Frank Cusumano, Jr., emailed this statement in response to the county's filing:

Karen Spranger was in full compliance with the Michigan election law statutes at all times. She denies any wrongdoing, denies that this action is not just a politically motivated gimmick, and looks forward to her day in Court and vindication. The "quo warranto" action taken is unprecedented in that "Macomb County" seeks the removal of a county-wide elected official voted into office by the People of Macomb County. The taxpaying public, the People who actually pay the bills, may reasonably ask, who is "Macomb County," if not the actual voters. The Clerk's Office under Spranger maintains detailed campaign disclosures online that reveal who the moneyed investors are, including public sector unions, that have assumed the personage of "Macomb County."

Meanwhile, county officials say more than 15 of the supervisors and workers in the County Clerk's office are on administrative or medical leave due to harassment by Spranger. The county's Human Resources Department says Spranger has created a hostile workplace.

She has caused a number of other embarrassments and scandals since taking office in January, including losing her computer privileges because she allowed friends to access county records, and being fined by Macomb County commissioners for the violation.

She and the county were sued by two people she fired after they filed internal ethics complaints against her. 

She also totaled a county-owned vehicle. And she was caught on videotape hiding moving boxes in an attempt to stop the county's planned relocation of some of her department to another building.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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