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Macomb County, sheriff, treasurer and courts sue Clerk Karen Spranger

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

A circuit court judge has issued a temporary restraining order directing Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger to reinstate key employees, give them the resources and staff they need to do their jobs, and allow them to perform their duties.

The TRO was issued after the Macomb County circuit courts, the county treasurer and sheriff, and the county itself sued Spranger for an unprecedented situation: an elected official who seems hell-bent on destroying the functioning of her own office.

The complaint paints a picture of vital county functions grinding to a halt because of a hostile, destructive, and incompetent clerk.

Spranger refuses to let employees do their jobs; harangues, belittles and harasses them; banishes them from the workplace, and refuses to fill vacant positions. 

Criminal conviction records and warrant clearances aren't being processed, which could result in people being wrongly arrested a second time. Court documents aren't being filed, leading to judges having to reschedule hearings.

And the county clerk's books no longer balance, after Spranger abandoned financial controls and took trained workers off the job.

The county will seek to make the restraining order permanent. If Spranger flouts the order, the judge could fine her or even imprison her.

Meanwhile, the county sheriff is investigating Spranger for possible perjury, after she was accused of lying about where she lived when she filed to run for clerk. 

Spranger is also being sued by two employees that she fired, allegedly after they blew the whistle on her unethical behavior. They also sued the county.

Union employees have filed at least 22 upheld grievances against her. 

On Wednesday, Spranger must appear before a judge in a lawsuit filed by unions that represent her workers.  On Thursday, she must appear before the Macomb County Board of Commissioners, who have demanded that she respond to questions about what has gone wrong in her office and what she is going to do about it.

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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