Clerk Karen Spranger's latest controversial decision puts Macomb County hiring on hold

Spranger blocks employee's return to office

MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. – Karen Spranger's tenure as Macomb County clerk has been marked by one controversy after another, and there has been a slew of lawsuits involving her peers.

Spranger's latest decision has put a hold on much-needed hiring for the county, and it could affect the historic backlog of filings in the clerk's office.

When she returned to work last week after an administrative leave, a supervisor in the clerk's office was told by Spranger's chief deputy to leave. The supervisor was told that she had been terminated.

Officials said it's been a recurring problem in the clerk's office. By law in Macomb County, Spranger has no authority to hire or fire employees. Only human resources employees have that right.

"The clerk, I think, just wants to hire who she wants to hire, and, unfortunately, fire who she wants to fire," Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said. "That's not how this works. Fortunately, there are contractual agreements that a lot of the people who are working for county government have to prevent that from happening -- prevent them from just being arbitrarily fired by someone just because they don't like them."

Spranger has had more than 40 grievances filed against her since taking office.

By most accounts, the clerk's office is drowning in a backlog of filings, which has become an issue of public service and public safety, according to Macomb County officials.

"You're waiting in an incredibly long line, which never was the case before, but seems to be now because of the lack of personnel that are there," Hackel said.

There has been initiative among Macomb County commissioners to try to remove Spranger from office, but that's nearly impossible with an elected official.

Hackel said regardless of what anyone thinks of Spranger, removing her would set a dangerous precedent.

"That sets back the will of the people," Hackel said. "Far be it for them to decide who the county-wide elected officials are. That's the public's decision to make, and when it comes to an election cycle, when the seat is up again, it's up to the public to decide whether to allow them to maintain that existence or terminate them and hire somebody else."

Full coverage of Karen Spranger

Jan. 19, 2017: Spranger barred from using county computers after violating security protocols

March 13, 2017: Spranger seeks lawyer for court battle with Hackel

April 11, 2017: Spranger hides in bathroom to avoid questions about dispute with county board

April 20, 2017Macomb County Clerk fined for ethics violation amid dispute with county board

April 20, 2017Macomb County clerk crashes county car after being fined for ethics violation

April 24, 2017Neighbor says home listed as Spranger's primary residence overrun with raccoons

May 3, 2017Emails reveal another battle between Spranger and Macomb County officials

May 4, 2017Spranger caught hiding moving boxes to block move to new building

May 9, 2017Legal battle troubles intensify for Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger

May 10, 2017Judge orders Spranger to cooperate with move to new building

May 17, 2017Spranger answers claims that her office is 'hostile work environment'

June 19, 2017Simple report turns heated between Spranger and county officials

June 22, 2017Macomb County clerk files suit to allow firearms inside government buildings

June 28, 2017Spranger's employees working in fear after security removed

July 20, 2017Spranger accused of perjury over 'uninhabitable' home in Warren

Aug. 1, 2017Lawsuit announced against Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger

Aug. 14, 2017Employee calls 911 after Spranger asks to look through her purse

Sept. 22, 2017Spranger accused of moving, hiding computers overnight

Sept. 28, 2017Judge rules against Spranger in 'toxic work environment' case

Oct. 21, 2017: Spranger's totaled car among items up for bids at Macomb County auction

Oct. 25, 2017Spranger caught on video covering up court order

Oct. 27, 2017Union files restraining order against Spranger over 'hostile workplace'

Oct. 27, 2017Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger sues Google amid residency battle

Nov. 1, 2017Employee blames Spranger for huge online backlog at office

Nov. 7, 2017: Spranger requests $100K to pay for her ongoing legal battles

Nov. 9, 2017Spranger's office given Thursday deadline to clear e-filing backlog

Nov. 9, 2017Spranger fails to meet judges' backlog deadline

Nov. 9, 2017: Spranger solves long wait times by bringing in benches for customers

Nov. 21, 2017Union files motion to hold Spranger in contempt of court

Nov. 29, 2017Contempt of court hearing held for Spranger

Nov. 30, 2017: Spranger appears before Board of Commissioners

Nov. 30, 2017Spranger grilled over massive backlog in her office

Dec. 11, 2017: Judge hears arguments on Spranger's firing of employees

Dec. 15, 2017: Video shows feces, clutter in house Spranger listed as residence

Jan. 2, 2018Spranger files lawsuit against Macomb County alleging conspiracy against her

Jan. 8, 2018: Spranger puts Macomb County hiring on hold

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You can watch Steve weekends as anchor of Local 4 News at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. and reporting throughout the week. Steve is a veteran journalist who has worked at Local 4 since 1995.