As kooky county Clerk Karen Spranger sinks deeper into layers of legal problems, the Macomb County official today manufactured a new defense for reports of her incompetence: A “hand-picked liberal journalist” has engaged in collusion with county employees and union officials to ruin her reputation.
In a court hearing held before Circuit Judge Richard Caretti where she represented herself, the Republican clerk claimed that press bias has led to a potential legal injunction against her and that this conspiracy includes “hand-picked media to portray a ‘sky is falling’ attitude,’” according to The Macomb Daily.
Spranger, who no longer has a personal attorney representing her, is trying to fend off labor union charges that she targets unionized employees for harassment amidst a hostile work environment, while violating labor laws in the process. One union that represents a portion of Spranger’s staff is trying to turn an ongoing temporary restraining order into a long-term injunction.
“Union’s attempt to portray Spranger as hostile and harassing are false,” the clerk said, referring to a nine-page written statement she submitted to the court. “The statements indicates (sic) that union has collaborated, colluded, and conspired with multiple county actors to counter her ability to manager her offices and her employees as stated in the collective bargaining agreement.”
While about two dozen media organizations have covered Spranger’s bizarre, divisive actions during her 10 ½ months as clerk – and she has even received some mentions from national news organizations – Spranger did not name the journalist or journalists she blames for her problems.
Since taking office Jan. 1, Spranger has become ensnared in numerous controversies and various claims that she is incapable of performing her duties, particularly in regard to big backlogs blamed on a short-staffed workforce. The eccentric clerk takes care of all the paperwork and electronic filings for the county Circuit Court; she administers the proper documentation of every real estate transaction in the county; she oversees county elections; and she handles birth and death certificates, concealed pistol licenses, marriage licenses and business registrations.
County officials have pursued several possible methods of removing Spranger from office. Meanwhile, dozens of grievances have been filed against her by unionized employees. On Nov. 28, she faces a hearing before the Michigan Employment Relations Commission for labor law violations related to allegedly traumatizing her workers.
Under questioning from Caretti, a conservative Republican judge, Spranger admitted there is “turmoil” in the Clerk’s Office but she blamed it on the county moving two divisions of her office to the Talmer Building, which is located 200 to 300 yards up the street in downtown Mount Clemens.
The move, part of a major reshuffling of numerous county departments, had been first proposed years before Spranger took office and was anticipated by Clerk’s Office workers, without complaint.
Caretti said he will issue his ruling on the requested court injunction on Monday or Tuesday.