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Macomb County Clerk

Kathy Smith
Macomb County

Macomb County has a new clerk, for now.

The county’s circuit court judges unanimously picked longtime county employee Kathy Smith to temporarily head the clerk’s office Monday.

Karen Spranger
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

In a surprise to no one, former Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger is not quietly accepting her fate after being removed from office last week.

Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger
Macomb Daily

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.”

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.

Former Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

"It's been a hard row," Macomb County Court Clerk Karen Spranger told a federal district judge Tuesday about the legal and administrative roadblocks placed in the way of her effort to run the office how she wishes. "It's very unfair. This has to stop."

Spranger, representing herself, claims the county, the courts, unions, and the media have conspired to deprive her of her civil rights. That's after a circuit court stripped her of most of her authority for refusing to fill crucial positions necessary to keep county government operating. 

Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger
Macomb Daily

On Tuesday, Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger, representing herself, will appear at a hearing in her lawsuit against the county before federal district judge George Steeh.

She is expected to argue that he should recuse himself.

That's because twenty years ago, he was a Macomb County judge, and her lawsuit is alleging a conspiracy led by various Macomb County actors.

Former Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Macomb County's embattled Clerk and Register of Deeds, Karen Spranger, has filed a federal lawsuit alleging a civil conspiracy against her, involving county officials, union officials, and members of the media.

Since taking office in January, Spranger has refused to hire new employees, and tried to fire a number of union supervisors and union employees. When she was told she could not fire employees under the protection of a labor union contract, she harassed and threatened employees, and refused to allow them to do the jobs for which they had been trained.

Former Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A judge has found Macomb County clerk Karen Spranger in contempt of court.

Circuit Court Judge Richard Caretti ruled Spranger violated a court order. Among other things, the preliminary injunction and a subsequent temporary restraining order prevent her from harassing or retaliating against employees who file grievances, or engage in union activities.

Former Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A court hearing Wednesday highlighted ongoing dysfunction in the Macomb County clerk’s office.

Clerk Karen Spranger represented herself in a case brought by her employees who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Spranger is accused of violating a court order preventing her from harassing or retaliating against union employees who file grievances or engage in union business.

injured piggy bank
Ken Teegardin / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The state's savings account wouldn't last long if there was another economic downturn. That's according to new analysis from the Citizens Research Council.

The independent government watchdog says Michigan's "rainy day" fund is slowly recovering after it was drained during the Great Recession, but the state is still unprepared for a new downturn.

This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss what needs to happen to get Michigan's piggy bank back in shape.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Macomb County Commissioners are turning to a rather obscure state law to help them get the county clerk's office back on track, and possibly remove County Clerk Karen Spranger.

The commissioners hope this state law will force Spranger to answer questions about the way she's running her office, and about the many problems that have piled up since the Republican clerk took office in January.

Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet joined Stateside today to give us the latest.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Enough is enough, Macomb County Commissioners say.  It's time for County Clerk Karen Spranger to go.

Before she was elected, Spranger was a political neophyte known for odd forms of protest, such as showing up at a Warren City Council meeting wearing a silver track suit, sunglasses, and two hats, to protest DTE smart meter installations.

It's not clear why Macomb County voters chose someone with no qualifications as their next County Clerk, but most county officials believe she was elected solely by virtue of straight-party ticket voting, and won the office on Donald Trump's coattails.

Spranger's tenure has been a whirlwind of one scandal after another, with lawsuits, employee grievances, a car wreck, allegations of perjury, and chaos in the day-to-day workings of a crucial county department that touches the lives of citizens, businesses, and the courts.

"She refuses to hire new employees," says County Commissioner Robert Leonetti, "so now we're down 11 or 12 employees, in her department, not to mention the ones that are on administrative leave because of harassment."

Updated: 11/9/17

The Macomb County Board of Commissioners has once again said "no" to the county clerk's request for money for a private attorney.  Karen Spranger asked for $15,000 for a private attorney earlier this year, and she asked for $100,000 on Tuesday.

Spranger is involved in so many lawsuits it's hard to keep track. 

She's being sued by two former employees that she fired after they allegedly blew the whistle on her ethics violations. She's being sued by one of the unions that represents her employees. And she's being sued by the county.   

Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger
Macomb Daily

There have been so many twists and turns and controversies since voters elected anti-government activist Karen Spranger as county clerk, it would make a pretty good soap opera.

The latest: A circuit court judge has issued a temporary restraining order directing Spranger to stop threatening and harassing her employees.  That's after internal grievances, which were upheld, failed to stop her behavior, which includes threats to fire people.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

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.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Problems continue to plague Macomb County Clerk/Register of Deeds Karen Spranger’s office.

Spranger was unable to present a proposed budget to Macomb County Commissioners as scheduled on Monday.

The County Executive’s office say that’s because she submitted an incomplete proposal weeks late.

Macomb County Circuit Court
Macomb County

A Macomb County Circuit Court judge could decide Monday whether a case against embattled county clerk Karen Spranger will move forward.

County officials have accused Spranger of lying about her address when she filed to run for office last year. If the case proceeds, a judge will decide whether there's enough evidence to legally disqualify Spranger from office.

"If the courts come back and say 'Nope, everything's fine,' then so be it -- she's the clerk, and we'll have to deal with the challenges we face or have been facing," Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said.

Spranger before she was elected as Macomb County Clerk.
Macomb Daily

Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger faces a new lawsuit, after being sued earlier this year by two former employees who say their firing was in retaliation for blowing the whistle on her unethical behavior.

This time Spranger is being sued for actions she took before taking the oath of office.

Diane Zontini says ten days after the election in November, she caught an associate of Spranger secretly videotaping her as Zontini was conducting private business at the Clerk's office.

Macomb County Circuit Court
Macomb County

Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger has agreed to let a move of some of her departments take place -- but only after she was sued by the county. 

Spranger has been butting heads with Macomb County officials and getting into trouble ever since she took office in January.  

The former anti-government activist lost access to her county-owned computer for weeks, after she was caught letting friends, who were not county employees, use it. 

Macomb Daily

Macomb County's new Clerk is a political neophyte who has stumbled into controversy after controversy since she took office five months ago.