Judge Rejects Conspiracy Claims of Ousted Michigan Clerk

DETROIT (CN) – A federal judge in Michigan dismissed a lawsuit from a former county clerk who claimed other local officials conspired to prevent her from performing her duties.

Karen Spranger was removed from her position on March 27 after St. Clair County Judge Daniel Kelly ruled that she had lied about her residency because she did not live at the Warren address she listed on papers for her run as Macomb County Court Clerk in the November 2016 election.

Before her ouster, Spranger filed a pro se federal lawsuit in Detroit alleging that she had been “victimized” by a cadre of officials – including county executives, union leaders, news reporters, and a judge – who had hindered her ability to appoint and hire employees. Her civil rights complaint alleged that they targeted her for cooperating with federal and state law enforcement as it investigated fraud and abuses in the county.

But disgruntled former county employees claimed in a whistleblower lawsuit filed last year that Spranger mismanaged her office and refused to fill jobs in courts and vital records sections and spun the previously award-winning office into chaos by trying to fire union employees on a whim.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge George Steeh rejected Spranger’s conspiracy claims and granted Macomb County’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

“Spranger’s complaint does not allege any race-based, ethnic-animated, or gender-motivated animus by Macomb County. As such, she has failed to state a claim for conspiracy,” Steeh wrote in the 13-page decision.

Macomb County’s attorney John Schapka said Spranger’s time in office was marked by “chaos” and that she had fired employees without justification and refused to fill open positions to ensure the office ran smoothly.

“The lawsuit that she filed was at best ill-advised and at worst just completely frivolous,” Schapka said during a phone interview Thursday.

Spranger could not be immediately reached by phone for comment.

Voters elected Spranger, a Republican, over Democrat Fred Miller by a razor-thin margin in the 2016 election. Spranger had never held public office but beat Miller by 650 votes, 50 percent to 49.8 percent.

Spranger’s time in office led to “numerous scandals, employee grievances, and decreased efficiency in the day to day performance of the Macomb County Clerk’s office,” Judge Steeh noted in the ruling.

Within months of taking over as clerk in January 2017, Spranger was ejected from her county computer for allowing non-county workers to use it, fined for ethics violations, and crashed her county car, the Detroit Free Press reported.

She also faced multiple lawsuits, including the whistleblower complaint filed by two of her fired deputies and another by the union representing her former employees.

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