Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger answers claims that her office is 'hostile work environment'

Second ethics complaint against Spranger dismissed

MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. – New Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger's first five months have been marred with several controversial events. She had her computer privileges suspended, fought a lawsuit against county officials, totaled a county car and faced ethics violations.

On Wednesday, a second ethics complaint against Spranger was dismissed.

Spranger doesn't gain much with the dismissal of the second complaint, because she'd already been found in violation for the first complaint. The second complaint was just a continuation of the first.

Click here for full coverage of Spranger's battle with Macomb County officials.

But Spranger is hoping this small victory will right the ship. Her allies circled the wagon on Wednesday at her ethics hearing.

"We have a county clerk who is like the mother of Macomb County now," Macomb County register of deeds Jackie Ryan said. "All the employees work very hard for the county clerk because they do care about her very much."

It was those comments from Ryan that prompted two union presidents to allege the clerk's office is a hostile work environment that's in chaos.

"You've got a lot of disarray down there, and you've got a lot of unhappy employees down there," Jerry Witt, of UAW 412, said.

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"I'd say things are in disarray in that office," Donna Cangemi, of AFSCME 411, said. "Is it because of Karen Spranger? I'd have to say so. That's what I'm hearing from my members."

Spranger declined to speak at the hearings, but she told Local 4 her office is running smoothly.

"Oh, definitely," Spranger said. "It's just, we don't have the security in place yet."

But her victory Wednesday was dulled a bit as she left the meeting, as she was served with the lawsuit filed by former Deputy Clerk Paul Kardasz, which most people involved seemed to think had already happened.

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"I do have a responsibility to be in compliance with record-keeping standards, and that's where I'm at with the executive branch, reaching the highest standard possible," Spranger said.

Spranger and Ryan said any disarray in the clerk's office is because that's how the former clerk, Carmella Sabaugh, left it -- specifically unsecured vital records sitting in a basement next to maintenance, and that's a security issue that Spranger said she's trying to fix.

Officials said they've received complaints about the alleged dysfunction from citizens. At the Board of Commissioners' meeting, one person said they waited an hour and a half for something that normally took 10 minutes.

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Employees said the reason for that is they don't have keys to access certain records because Spranger confiscated them for security reasons.

About the Authors:

Jason anchors Local 4's 5:30 p.m. newscast. He joined WDIV in January 2015 as a general assignment reporter and has a Journalism degree from Michigan State University.