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Reporter: Karen Spranger’s time in office will go down as “most bizarre” era for Macomb County

Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger
Macomb Daily

Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger took office in January 2017, and there's been non-stop drama surrounding her ever since.

That drama hit a new high Tuesday when a judge ordered Spranger to be removed from her post.

Taking her place will be Kathy Brower, a long-time Macomb County employee. A judge appointed her temporary acting county clerk today.

And, earlier today, Spranger's Deputy Clerk Jackie Ryan was forcibly removed from her office after refusing to leave.  

Long-time Macomb County reporter Chad Selweski joined Stateside today to talk about Spranger’s current predicament.

Listen to the full conversation above, or read highlights below.

On the root of Spranger’s drama

“It had to do a lot with what she assumed her authority was,” Selweski said. “She thought that she had complete authority over the clerk’s office.”

This authority included firing anybody she wanted without working with human resources and refusing to collaborate on her budget, according to Selweski.

“It really spiraled out of control from here,” he said, citing the fact that, within Spranger’s fifteen months in office, there were 43 instances that involved lawsuits, challenges fired between her and county executive Mark Hackel, and bizarre behavior.

“I would guess that this is going to go down as the most bizarre period of time ever in Macomb county politics,” Selweski said.

On why the judge removed Spranger

On an affidavit she signed while filing for office, Spranger said she lived in a house in South Warren. She had to sign that everything she reported was true.

“So that’s what county officials hung their head on, that she lied on this document, and I think there are a few things they came up with in their investigation that showed there was no way she was living there.”

Those things included five feet of garbage throughout the entirety of the house that made it impossible to gain entry. Investigators had to use a bulldozer to punch a hole in the exterior to enter.

On other accusations Spranger faces

According to Selweski, Spranger is currently facing three criminal cases, including battery for kicking an employee and taking a non-employee to a conference in Washington, D.C. at the expense of the county – in addition to perjury for signing an affidavit with knowledge that what she reported was inaccurate.  

On Jackie Ryan

“Jackie Ryan has been considered kind of an oddball in county politics, so her and Spranger made quite a duo,” Selweski said. "The comical thing about what happened this morning with her refusing to leave is that, just last week at an ethics board meeting involving one of Spranger’s many controversies, Jackie Ryan argued over and over again that she is not a county employee. She is an appointee of Karen Spranger, and she works for Karen Spranger. So the idea that she refused to leave when Karen Spranger was no longer county clerk is pretty interesting but it kind of fits the pattern."

On county officials’ reactions

“It was absolute relief,” Selweski said. “There were a lot of people that were just beside themselves trying to figure out how to deal with this woman, and it was something that they were just spending a whole lot of time with in court and county board meetings.”

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Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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