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Macomb leaders push judges for "stability" as ousted clerk claims "insurrection"

Apr 4, 2018

The twists keep coming in the case of ousted Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger, as the county’s elected leaders gathered Tuesday to call for “stability” and urge that Spranger’s current temporary replacement remain in office until the November election.

This came as Spranger appeared to attempt to regain her office by filing court documents addressing Gov. Snyder, President Trump, and others “to report a crime of Constitutional violation of the overthrow of my Constitutional offices.”

Ousted Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger.
Credit Macomb Daily

Macomb County’s chief judge picked employee Kathy Brower to fill in for Spranger last week, after a St. Clair County judge ruled her election invalid because Spranger apparently lied about living in Macomb County when she filed to run for office.

The entire Macomb Circuit Court bench is set to pick Spranger’s official interim replacement this month. But the county’s elected leaders want the judges to keep Brower on until voters choose a new clerk in November.

“I think the consensus is the fairest thing to do would be to maintain that stability,” said Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel. “Because you know the instability and the challenge that office faces right now. That would be the right thing to do on behalf of the employees, as well as the public.”

Hackel said Brower, who did not attend Tuesday’s press conference, has no interest in running for the clerk’s job. He suggested that keeping her on until November has another plus: forestalling an interim clerk who would then have an incumbent’s advantage going into the election.

“If you appoint somebody or put somebody else in that position, giving them that incumbency status or that edge--boy, especially somebody who’s going to be there in charge that elections office--that’s a challenge,” Hackel said.

Hackel says he’s “shared my thoughts” on the matter with Chief Judge James Biernat, but denied that he’s putting any political pressure on the judges by going public with them. “It’s not pressure. We’re just giving a suggestion as to what we think would be the fairest thing,” he said.

Hackel did repeatedly express his displeasure with longtime former county clerk Carmella Sabaugh, suggesting that by delaying her retirement “until the last minute,” she prevented other viable candidates from entering the race and paved the way for Spranger’s razor-thin victory over former County Commissioner Fred Miller.

He also suggested Sabaugh and Miller coordinated Sabaugh’s late exit in a “conspiracy” to clear the field for Miller. “A conspiracy doesn’t necessarily mean it’s illegal,” Hackel said. “There was a conversation between the two that decided to make this happen. Anybody who doesn’t think that’s a reality, well, I think you’re fooling yourself.”

According to the Macomb Daily, Miller plans to make the case that he should be appointed interim clerk because Spranger's candidacy was ruled invalid, making him the only eligible candidate on the last ballot.

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, Sheriff Anthony Wickersham, Treasurer Lawrence Rocca, and Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller also joined Hackel’s push to keep Brower on, echoing his calls for stability after Spranger’s chaotic 15-month tenure.

After the county officials made their thoughts public, Chief Judge Biernat released a statement acknowledging “the interests of all parties in ensuring a smooth transition in the Clerk’s Office.” He also stressed that by law, the county’s 14-member Circuit Court bench will make the final decision.

“The Judges take this responsibility very seriously, and we are planning on conducting a public meeting to discuss the selection of a new Clerk in an open and transparent manner,” Biernat said. “I can assure you that the Judges have not yet made a decision regarding this appointment.”

The statement also included comments from Brower, saying she “has no interest in running a political campaign” and plans to “stay away from politics and do what is needed.”

Meanwhile, Spranger filed a document in her ongoing federal conspiracy lawsuit Tuesday. Titled “Administrative claim notice of administrative overthrow of a constitutional office clerk of court of Macomb County by Rogue County Agents," it references a “Constitutional Bounty Hunter” with a North Carolina address. She requests an “immediate investigation and audit” into “possible crimes…by those public officials who are in insurrection and rebellion and who have gone on strike against the constitution.”

“My position has now been overthrown by several department heads in the county in direct violation of the charter and this state constitution as listed below,” Spranger wrote.

Macomb County Corporation Counsel John Schapka told the Detroit Free Press the document “is neither a pleading, nor a motion nor any other filing recognized by the court,” and “constitutes nothing more than conclusive evidence of a disorderly mind.”