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New Macomb County clerk says damage from Karen Spranger's tenure being repaired

Kathy Smith
Macomb County

Things are getting back to normal at the Macomb County Clerk's office, less than five months after Karen Spranger was removed from office.

Spranger's bizarre behavior and incompetence after she was elected in 2016 drove the department into turmoil and disarray.

Current Clerk Kathy Smith says a lot of people left because of Spranger, so the hardest part has been filling all the vacant positions and getting the new workers trained.

"Obviously you don't just hand somebody a piece of paper, and say okay, get started," says Smith.  "There's a lot of training required to work in that job.  What a great group of people -- they've worked so hard to get it where it needs to be."

Smith says the office has caught up with the huge backlog of court filings, and workers are nearly caught up with criminal justice entries like convictions.

And morale is much improved from the time when Spranger's verbal abuse of her employees drove many to quit or claim administrative leave because of emotional distress.

"It was unfortunate," says Smith. "It was unfortunate to go downstairs sometimes and see some of the girls in the hallway crying....."

A circuit court judge ordered Spranger removed from office in late March, saying she was ineligible to hold office, because she didn't live in the county when she filed to run for Clerk.

Spranger had no political experience when she was elected Macomb County Clerk, and it appears she had been unemployed for a long period of time.  She tried to fire union workers, and sued the county, her employer, when it would not let her do so because they were under contract.  She refused to fill vacant positions.  She berated employees she didn't like and would not allow workers use county protocols and systems that kept the books balanced.  Once she went through a supervisor's desk late at night and removed his shoes from a drawer, and she directed her deputy clerk to secretly videotape a resident in line at the clerk's office.     

Smith was appointed County Clerk after Spranger was forced to leave. She will serve until November, having chosen not to run in the election to fill the remainder of Spranger's term.

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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