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
March 13, 2017: Spranger seeks lawyer for court battle with Hackel
June 28, 2017: Spranger's employees working in fear after security removed
Sept. 22, 2017: Spranger accused of moving, hiding computers overnight
Sept. 28, 2017: Judge rules against Spranger in 'toxic work environment' case
Oct. 25, 2017: Spranger caught on video covering up court order
Nov. 9, 2017: Spranger fails to meet judges' backlog deadline
Nov. 21, 2017: Union files motion to hold Spranger in contempt of court
Nov. 29, 2017: Contempt of court hearing held for Spranger
Nov. 30, 2017: Spranger appears before Board of Commissioners
Nov. 30, 2017: Spranger grilled over massive backlog in her office
Dec. 11, 2017: Judge hears arguments on Spranger's firing of employees
Jan. 8, 2018: Spranger puts Macomb County hiring on hold