As eccentric Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger tries to cling to her job in the face of legal challenges from her county colleagues seeking her ouster, her bizarre behavior has now become national news.
A Newsweek magazine report published today rehashes all of Spranger’s numerous controversies that have revealed a gadfly who was somehow thrust into an office for which she had no qualifications.
Spranger has been mentioned, on the periphery, of numerous national news articles about Trump’s big win in Macomb that created his unlikely, narrow win in 2016 in Michigan – and Spranger’s incomprehensible win in the county clerk’s race.
Newsweek quotes John Schapka, the county’s top legal counsel, who is now trying to remove her from office through the courts: “She took office and it was just pandemonium.” Spranger fired veteran staffers in violation of union agreements, according to Schapka. Later, Schapka added, she refused to fill open positions, resulting in backlogs, including for 4,800 court filings that disrupted the county’s law enforcement system.
“She has triggered more (union) grievances in 15 months than every other department in the county in 10 years,” Schapka said.
County officials embarrassed by this national news coverage should be grateful that Newsweek did not pick up on details reported earlier this week by the Detroit Free Press:
At a lengthy interview with the Free Press in February, Spranger dismissed concerns about her job performance while unveiling what many might consider eccentric views on personal health. Among them? That microwave ovens poison food, that herbs have more healing power than prescription drugs, and that she’s an expert reflexologist — meaning, she can diagnose and treat illnesses by palpating feet, using a 19th Century health modality that’s still offered online but has been thoroughly discredited in scientific studies for anything beyond making recipients feel relaxed and drowsy.
‘Some people think I’m way out,’ Spranger, 65, said with a broad smile, as she discussed what she said was her fervent belief in reincarnation. As clerk, she is the latest incarnation of a royal aide who once served Egyptian queens, Spranger said.
‘Oh yes. You don’t have to believe that, but I know it’s true,’ she said.
The legal case against Spranger says that she lied on a legal affidavit when filing for office in 2016 that claimed she lived in a ramshackle house in Warren near the Detroit border. Among the mounds of evidence that make county officials confident, the house had no gas, water or electric service for years.
The Free Press added some shockingly pertinent details:
“Those mounds of proof include the mounds of rubbish and broken furniture piled up to five feet deep inside the house in Warren where Spranger said she’d been living, as filmed by county investigators. They first obtained a search warrant, then used a bulldozer to break into the home because wall-to-wall rubbish blocked every entrance, county officials said.”
Those favoring her ouster include Macomb judges and county commissioners – Republicans and Democrats alike – as well as County Executive Mark Hackel.
Prior to running for clerk in November 2016, a position that pays $109,000 a year, Spranger was a welfare recipient with no government experience who had not held a job for 23 years. She was known as a kooky presence at local city council meetings, dressing in a tin-foil outfit and claiming that the “smart meters” installed by the DTE electric company were altering homeowner’s brain waves.
In her first big attempt at winning elective office, she ran against controversial Warren Mayor Jim Fouts in 2015 and lost by an 85-15 percent margin.
Worse yet, the county clerk’s office was a most unlikely target by a rogue outsider, as it had previously received numerous national awards for its innovative programs. Spranger’s Democratic election opponent, Fred Miller, a former state representative and county commissioner, was respected in local political circles.
Meanwhile, Spranger has tried to play the victim throughout her rocky 15 months in office, claiming that entrenched Democratic officials want to remove her because she is a Republican. Yet, virtually no local GOP official has come to her defense.
At the same time, Republican Party leaders in 2016 took no steps to short-circuit Spranger’s August GOP primary election victory over three other candidates, which placed her on the November general election ballot as the party’s nominee for county clerk.
One recurring myth is that Spranger was elected only because she rode into office on Trump’s coattails. No, straight-ticket voting by Republicans was not a major factor and the majority of Macomb voters chose her with, presumably, knowing nearly nothing about her.
Voter ignorance is to blame for this fiasco – and nothing else.