Macomb clerk to fight $100 fine for ethics violations

Mike Martindale

Mount Clemens – Embattled Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger plans to appeal a $100 fine assessed against her Wednesday for ethics violations, her attorney said.

The county ethics board acted on complaints from one of two top assistants Spranger fired after taking office in January.

Spranger appeared before the board for nearly three hours, according to her attorney, Frank Cusumano Jr. The panel voted 2-1 that she violated two sections of the county’s ethics ordinance by allowing noncounty employees to access county computer equipment.

Spranger could not be reached for comment but returned to her office after the meeting on the ninth floor of the county administrative building, Cusumano said.

“They never cited specifically what ordinances she supposedly violated but the areas discussed appear to fall under human resources and labor relations matters,” the attorney said. “Nothing about ethics like corruption.

“OK. Let’s find out if she did something wrong but if not, let’s make sure she isn't railroaded,” Cusumano said. “She’s concerned they have now ‘weaponized’ the ethics board so it can go after anyone it is in disagreement with over how to conduct county business.”

Cusumano said he and Spranger are “considering all the options” for an appeal of the board’s decision, “including adding it to a case to determine the constitutionality of the ethics ordinance as worded.”

Since taking office, Spranger has been the subject of several grievances filed on behalf of unidentified people, Cusumano said, adding fuel to criticism of her office.

“This isn’t Iraq or Hitler’s Germany,” he said. “Are they that frightened to come forward?”

Spranger’s term has been filled with controversy. County officials revoked her computer access in January after accusing her of letting nonemployees log in behind the clerk’s desk.

She fired two appointees, chief deputy clerk Paul Kardasz and deputy register of deeds Erin Stahl, last month. Both have sued Spranger and the county, alleging she dismissed them for complaining about her work performance.

Wednesday’s hearing concerned ethics complaints filed by Kardasz. The ethics board will take up Stahl’s complaints May 17.

The ethics board has five members but only three voted Wednesday because one was absent and another left before the vote. Dorie Vazquez-Nolan and Paddy Laske both agreed Spranger violated county policies.

The lone “no” vote came from ethics board chairman Donald Amboyer, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Spranger, a Republican in a job held for more than two decades by a Democrat, has battled commissioners over her right to fire unionized employees and over her request for $15,000 to hire an attorney to litigate that issue and review a county information technology contract.

“I think everyone in Macomb County is concerned right now,” deputy county executive Mark Deldin told The News last month. “We have little jurisdiction over the way she chooses to run the county clerk’s office.”

Supporters have said Spranger, who makes $108,880 a year, is being unfairly targeted by county officials.

“They cannot accept the fact that a Republican won the election,” her former campaign adviser, Joseph Hunt, told The News.

(248) 338-0319