Macomb County Clerk fined for ethics violation amid dispute with county board

Ethics board ruled Karen Spranger was in violation of county ordinances

By Jason Colthorp - Anchor/Reporter, Derick Hutchinson

MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. - The saga involving Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger took another new twist Wednesday after the county's ethics board ruled she was in violation of county ordinances.

Spranger, who hid from Local 4 cameras in a bathroom last week, has been very quiet throughout the process, but she was available for questions on Wednesday as she faced an ethics committee following complaints by two former employees.

The board didn't need the 60 days it was afforded to make a decision. It found Spranger has made some ethical errors in just her 3 1/2 months on the job. The other question that arose Wednesday: Is Spranger qualified to hold the office of clerk?

Spranger was given a $100 fine for not following IT mandates by the county and allowing two people she improperly deputized to illegally have access to her county computer.

The committee also heard testimony that Spranger created a hostile work environment, which she denied.

"There's just a few disagreements that get to a level that people need to understand we need to get back to the basics of working it out," Spranger said.

The complaints were filed by her chief deputies, Erin Stahl and Paul Kardasz, who were fired by Spranger shortly after the disagreement.

"As a deputy, I was doing things the clerk should do," one deputy said, adding that Spranger is in over her head.

"She has no clue, nor did she want to understand what the workload was," another deputy said.

The committee asked questions about Spranger's lack of training and asked why, at times, she seemed unprepared Wednesday.

"I'm not prepared for dates and times," Spranger said.

"There's been a lot of talk about job training today. Do you think you're capable of doing this job?" Spranger was asked.

"Definitely. Definitely," Spranger said.

Spranger was whisked away by her attorney at that moment, but she told Local 4 that some of her policies are common sense, and she hopes to improve services.

Kardasz and Stahl still have a whistleblower lawsuit against Spranger and the county.

Spranger avoids questions about dispute with county board

The county is pushing new technology it thinks will boost efficiency, but Spranger is pushing back. The battle has escalated to the point of a potential lawsuit, but Spranger went to great lengths to avoid talking about it.

Spranger hid in the bathroom as Local 4 tried to ask about her potential lawsuit against the board of commissioners. When she finally emerged, she didn't answer any questions.

Local 4 followed Spranger down six flights of stairs trying to get a comment, but she wouldn't talk. You can see some of the attempts in the video posted below.

Although Local 4 cameras could see the clerk, her lawyer, Frank Cusumano, said Spranger was busy and unavailable to talk.

Spranger is considering suing the Macomb County Board of Commissioners. In January, the board implemented an electronic agenda management system. Spranger said it takes away from her duties.

"She believes that the county commissioners cannot unilaterally take those duties away from her," Cusumano said. "She intends to protect those duties for the office."

"This new system is not denying her any ability to do her job," board chair Bob Smith said. "She can still come in here, she can take notes, she can takes minutes, but she doesn't have to."

Spranger was newly elected as Macomb County clerk in November.

"Anyone can file a lawsuit," Cusumano said. "She'll have her day in court."

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