The lawyer for Karen Spranger, embattled Macomb County clerk and register of deeds, said Friday he is moving to disqualify the entire Macomb County Circuit Court bench from hearing any proceedings against his client.
Frank Cusumano, who is representing Spranger in both civil and criminal investigations into whether she should continue as clerk, said the same judges who denied her choice for chief deputy would get to choose her successor if she was removed from office.
A hearing is scheduled Monday in circuit court on a request by other county officials to remove Spranger on the grounds that she committed perjury.
At issue is whether Spranger was being truthful when she filed an affidavit in April 2016 swearing under oath that she lived in a home on Hudson Avenue in Warren.
“That’s her residence,” Cusumano said Friday.
When asked by a reporter if Spranger actually lives in the house, Cusumano answered “I don’t know,” but added the law doesn’t address that.
“I think that was her primary residence under the election law,” said Cusumano. “As a matter of law, (Spranger) is eligible to hold office.”
According to Macomb County filings in the matter, city of Warren records have listed the Hudson Avenue home as “uninhabitable” since 2012 due to lack of utilities, which includes water. The property is deteriorating and the city of Warren has cited the home as a “nuisance.”
Spranger acquired the home through quit claim in 2013 from her mother’s estate. In 2015, a court found Spranger did not qualify for a principal residence exemption since she did not live on the premises. The water at the home, according to the county’s court filing, has been turned off since 2012.
In an affidavit filed Wednesday in Macomb County Circuit Court in preparation for Monday’s hearing, Spranger argued: “The Hudson Address was, to the best of my knowledge and belief, my residence as judicially interpreted and was on any filing deadline for the general election as required by (Michigan law) MCL 168.91.”
Spranger continued in her written legal arguments: “At no time to my knowledge, has the Secretary of State, Macomb County Clerk or the city of Warren challenged the factual accuracy of my registration as a qualified elector using the Hudson Address, my right to register and vote using the Hudson Address, or legal status as a registered and qualified voter using the Hudson address.”
In a filing earlier this month, the county argued, “Plaintiff did not reside at ... Hudson when she filed the affidavit of identity on April 6, 2016 and, therefore, she is not qualified to hold the office of Macomb County Clerk/Register of Deeds.”
Monday’s hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. before Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Kathryn Viviano.
Spranger, said Cusumano, will invoke the Fifth Amendment in any proceedings against her.
“She believes there is a witch-hunt and she’s not allowing (investigators from the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office) to put words in her mouth,” said Cusumano.
Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham’s office is investigating a complaint filed with the department regarding Spranger’s residency.
Elected in November, Spranger, a Republican, has faced a barrage of criticism and controversy since taking office and has frequently clashed with other county officials.
Her salary is $108,880 a year.
Christine Ferretti contributed.