Detroit – Macomb County Clerk Karen A. Spranger has filed a federal lawsuit against Macomb County officials, alleging they have engaged in a “collusion of civil conspiracy” with a chief judge, a union president and news reporters to keep her from doing her elected job.
The 23-page lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, seeks in excess of $100,000 in damages and requests several actions to undo court-ordered legal actions taken in recent months against Spranger.
Spranger, who is representing herself in the complaint, did not return a call Wednesday from The News.
Her lawsuit alleges Macomb County officials have repeatedly “interfered with her constitutional and statutory duties” partly because she is one of the first Republicans to win a county-wide seat in 80 years.
She also alleged she has been “targeted” with media-driven “hysteria” eroding her rights due to her cooperating with the FBI and others to investigate “widespread systemic corruption” and fraud in Macomb County.
Since taking office a year ago, Spranger has been embroiled in a series of political fights with other county officials and has clashed with the county workers’ union over work rules for the 85 employees she supervises.
Calls to Frank A. Cusumano Jr., an attorney who has represented Spranger in several cases, were not returned. It was not immediately clear why Spranger – who is not an attorney – has now decided to represent herself.
Macomb County’s chief legal counsel, John Schapka – who is listed in the complaint as one of the “county’s actors in the conspiracy” – predicted “this case will be resolved very quickly with a motion to dismiss.”
“This complaint struggles to rise to the level of gibberish,” said Schapka, upon reading the lawsuit for the first time Wednesday. “It is beyond the outer limits of frivolousness.”
The federal lawsuit, assigned to Judge George Steeh, is the fourth piece of litigation involving Spranger and Macomb County since she took office last year.
Two suits are pending before Judge Daniel Kelly of St. Clair County Circuit Court after the entire Macomb Circuit bench recused itself from hearing matters involving Spranger. Another pending federal whistleblower lawsuit was brought against Spranger after she fired two county employees.
Besides Schapka, others singled out in Spranger’s complaint include deputy Macomb County Executive Mark Deldin; Karen Bathanti, the county’s human resources and labor relations director; Donna Cangemi, president of AFSCME Local 411 union; Macomb Chief Circuit Judge James Biernat Jr.; Jason Colthorp, a reporter for WDIV-TV (Channel 4); and Jameson Cook, a reporter for the Macomb Daily.
Spranger alleges Biernat has not approved her appointment of a chief clerk and Deldin has taken actions, including relocating her county offices, that disrupted operations “from May through September” in 2017.
Schapka, she alleged, has provided “incompetent legal counsel” to county officials regarding Spranger and refused to be present for any labor organization grievances initiated by Cangemi and upheld by Bathanti.
Cangemi and others orchestrated union demonstrations against her office, Spranger said.
Spranger referred to Cook and Colthorp as “standby news media who report false and misleading news to the general public regarding the operational functionality” of her office.
“WDIV denies any allegations of wrongdoing against its reporter and will continue, as always, to cover issues of importance to our community,” the station said in a statement.
Cook declined to comment, while Canmegi referred questions to her union’s attorney, Bruce Miller.
“I think (Spranger) is in need of help but not the type the court can render,” Miller said.
Spranger alleged Deldin, Schapka and Bathanti were “sources of internal leaks” to the two journalists, who subsequently filed what she felt were unfair reports.
The lawsuit seeks the dissolution of a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction granted against her in the union case, including the reinstatement of workers she had hired.