MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. – A judge has appointed a temporary clerk in Macomb County after Karen Spranger was ordered removed from office on Tuesday.
Chief Judge James M. Biernat Jr. announced Wednesday he has appointed longtime Macomb County employee Kathy Brower as temporary acting clerk. Brower has been a Macomb County employee since September of 1992, according to Biernat's office.
Here's a statement from Biernat's office:
"She began working as a temporary file room clerk for the Clerk’s Office, and was hired permanently by the Clerk’s Office in July of 1993. Kathy has worked in numerous jobs throughout the County during her career -- as a typist clerk for the Board of Commissioners; supervisor of records for the Clerk’s Office; and data maintenance clerk, judicial aide, and assistant to the court administrator for the Circuit Court. Most recently, Kathy has served as the Court’s Caseload Manager, overseeing case assignment, statistical reporting, attorney appointments, interpreter appointments, and monitoring compliance with the State Court Administrative Office’s time guidelines."
The vacancy must be filled immediately to avoid serious disruptions to Macomb County government and the Macomb County Circuit Court, according to the chief judge. Michigan Law (MCL 201.15) provides the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court with authority to make a short-term temporary appointment to fill the office of County Clerk.
“I am honored that I’ve been chosen to assist the County with this transition. I hope that my temporary appointment will bring some stability to the great staff working at the Clerk’s Office," reads a statement from Brower.
Employees who know Brower say "she's the perfect choice" to be interim clerk and even think she'd make a great permanent clerk. As it is, she'll hold the job until a judge appoints someone. #Local4— «Jason Colthorp» (@JasonColthorp) March 28, 2018
Deputy clerk leaves office defiantly
Earlier on Wednesday, Macomb County Deputy Clerk Jackie Ryan was refusing to leave office, just a day after her boss, county clerk Spranger, was ordered removed from her post by Judge Daniel Kelly. Spranger's former deputy, who works as the county's register of deeds, was refusing to leave the Clerk's Office in Mount Clemens.
Ryan told reporters that she believes Spranger was wrongfully removed. She also said she should be the "deputy in place," and that the county has no authority to remove her from office.
Ryan was given a form that stated should would be placed on administrative leave.
"They're stealing people's money by placing people on admin leave," Ryan told reporters.
"We know too much about the fraud in here and we will expose it for the people of Macomb County," Ryan said.
Watch Ryan speak with reporters below:
County officials did successfully remove Ryan from her office just after 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
CLERK'S OFFICE SAGA CONTINUES:— «Jason Colthorp» (@JasonColthorp) March 28, 2018
Macomb County Register of Deeds Jackie Ryan, who's fiercely loyal to former clerk Karen Spranger, refuses to leave office and then is escorted out by deputies after packing up office. #Local4 pic.twitter.com/GxA0dDf09h
Macomb County Deputy Executive Mark Deldin spoke after Ryan left.
“We made the decision late last night that we needed to cut off all of her technology access,” Deldin said. “We felt it was necessary to cut off her access to minimize any damage that she may try to do on her way out of the county, but more importantly, the employees that work in the clerk’s office felt increasingly concerned in recent days about the irrational and erratic behavior of the former county clerk and her chief deputy.”
Watch Deldin speak with reporters after Ryan's departure below:
The ruling on Spranger's removal came as Macomb County officials were challenging Spranger's residency in a countersuit to her lawsuit. Judge Daniel Kelly issued the order to remove Spranger to the Macomb County Executive's Office.
"It feels like 100 pounds off of my shoulders," Macomb County Deputy Executive Mark Deldin said.
Macomb County officials said Spranger will be forced out when the judge's writ is received, which is likely to be in a few days. Spragner can appeal, but she'll have to leave the office during the appeal process, officials said.
Employees in the clerk's office said human resources workers and county lawyers took Spranger's keys and security badge to remove her from the office.
"I'm confident the judge's ruling is appropriate," Macomb County Board of Commissioners Chair Bob Smith said. "The Board of Commissioners is ready to assist as appropriate or needed."
Kelly pointed to several pieces of evidence that suggest Spranger doesn't primarily live at 7520 Hudson Avenue, which was the residence listed on her application to run for Macomb County clerk. Kelly said the home last had electrical service in April 2015 and natural gas service in July 2015.
In addition, mail sent to the address was returned to the sender by the U.S. Post Office because the property was vacant.
Records from the Department of Health and Human Services show that Spranger used her Bridge Card exclusively in western Wayne County from November 2015 through the end of 2016, Kelly said. Specifically, she regularly shopped at Zerbos Health Foods in Livonia, Kroger in Westland, Better Health Marker in Novi and Plymouth and Costco in Livonia.
Three neighbors of the Hudson home provided witness statements saying nobody had lived at the home for years.
Sgt. Mark Morfino of the Macomb County Sheriff's Office said he was part of a team that executed a search warrant at the Hudson home. He said the team found entryways barricaded from the inside by wall-to-wall garbage, feces and animals to a depth of four to five feet.
Morfino said the team didn't find any mail at the home that was dated after 2011.
You can view the judge's full ruling below:
The controversy surrounding Spranger continued Monday with no signs of slowing down as she found herself in the middle of two criminal investigations.
Spranger was accused of kicking a county employee, and investigators are looking more closely at a business trip she took earlier in the month.
Spranger accused of kicking employee
Four sheriff's deputies were called to the clerk's office Monday when county officials alleged Spranger and her register of deeds tried to disrupt the moving of furniture and equipment.
The deputies returned Monday morning for an alleged assault by the clerk.
Macomb County's renovated clerk's office reopened to the public Monday.
County officials said an employee felt harassed by Spranger and went to see her supervisor.
"As the employee left the office, she tried barging in the office and threw her foot in the door, and as she put her foot in the door to avoid it from being closed, she kicked an employee," Deldin said.
Investigators took pictures and statements. Speaking for Spranger, register of deeds Jackie Ryan said there was no confrontation, and the employee stepped on Spranger's foot.
"This is all made up, because Deldin and them have nothing on Karen, and they're trying to make up something to get her out of office," Ryan said.
"We view her as the mother of anarchy," Deldin said. "She doesn't agree with anything. If it wasn't the move, it would be some other chaos. But you cannot get agreement with her at all. You cannot reach consensus."
Hostility inside Spranger's office is increasing, officials said.
"This is all made up because of this crazy injunction," Ryan said. "That's a wrongful injunction, and now the president of the United States has come on the scene to help Karen."
Ryan said President Donald Trump has sent staff members to help Spranger. She said they have been there for two weeks, and their role is to "get this whole matter straightened out."
Local 4 reached out to the White House and U.S. Marshals Service. Trump's administration hasn't returned comment, and a U.S. marshal hadn't heard anything about the situation.
Spranger accused of fraud
Spranger maxed out her county credit card during a trip to Washington, D.C., for a conference a couple of weeks ago, leading to problems with service at her office. Now questions have arisen about who went on the trip, and officials are accusing Spranger of fraud.
The Macomb County Sheriff's Office is investigating Spranger's travel expenditures after a complaint was filed Friday by the country, alleging she paid for former County Commissioner Niki Brandenburg to attend the national conference.
"We recognized the name, but verified this is not an employee of the county and hasn't been since 2006," Deldin said.
A receipt from the conference shows Brandenburg's fee was paid on Spranger's county credit card, along with Ryan.
"If you falsify information, it could be deemed as fraud," Deldin said.
On Friday, Deldin said she confronted Spranger and Ryan face-to-face, demanding an explanation. Ryan said they had permission.
"I found out about it short notice," Ryan said. "I said, 'Can Karen Spranger still go to the conference?' Finance told me yes."
"They said you could take a non-employee and put it on the credit card," Ryan was asked.
"'That has no relevance,' she said," Ryan said.
The woman Ryan spoke to in finance said she never mentioned the Brandenburg's name, telling Dendin in an email that," Ms. Ryan is looking for a scapegoat because they have again crossed a line and done something that escapes common sense."
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
Jan. 31, 2018: Attorney for Spranger says register of deeds threatened him
Feb. 27, 2018: Spranger takes conspiracy allegations to federal court
March 27, 2018: Spranger to be removed from office immediately, judge says