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Macomb Co. clerk, officials come to peace over move

Charles E. Ramirez, and Candice Williams
DetroitNews

Mount Clemens — It looks like Macomb County’s Clerk and the county have settled a dispute over relocating two of her offices.

On Wednesday, attorneys for Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger and the county said they reached an agreement that addresses her concerns about moving the Register of Deeds and Vital Records to the newly renovated Talmer Building at 120 N. Main in Mount Clemens.

“I’m very happy,” Spranger said. “It’s a positive choice and it was very well executed. It was good leadership on both sides.”

Mark Deldin, Macomb County chief deputy executive, said he was glad an agreement was reached.

“We are relieved,” he said. “It did not need to be this difficult.”

The deal comes a day after county officials filed a lawsuit in Macomb County Circuit Court requesting the temporary restraining order against Spranger to stop her from blocking the moving.

Under the agreement, Spranger and county officials say she will cooperate with the move of her two departments to the Talmer Building on Friday. The agreement hadn’t been signed by the judge yet.

In addition, Spranger’s employees will be assigned work stations according to a floor plan she must submit by 10 a.m. Thursday. If she fails to do that, the county can seat those employees according to any floor plan officials choose.

The pact was reached on the morning a hearing was scheduled before Macomb County Circuit Judge Kathryn A. Viviano on the county’s request for a temporary restraining order that would have blocked Spranger from fighting the move to the new offices.

Attorneys said the agreement made the hearing unnecessary.

In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, the county said Spranger gave “bizarre reasons” for objecting to a move of the Register of Deeds and Vital Records offices to the Talmer Building at 120 N. Main, which underwent $1.5 million in renovations. The county also alleges that the clerk was caught on video hiding packing boxes.

Spranger responded to the lawsuit Tuesday, saying the executive’s office is shutting her out and the action is part of a drive to remove her from office.

The departments are expected to open their doors for business on Monday, officials said. The Register of Deeds currently is located at 32 Market St. in Mount Clemens. The Vital Records Department is located on the first floor of the Macomb County Circuit Court building.

“I’m always positive,” Spranger said that her relationship will improve with Hackel, “and I have some great ideas.” “This is all part of the process of learning to respect each other’s decisions and jurisdiction. That’s what it came down to.”

Hackel’s office responded in kind.

“We are here to provide a service to the people,” he said. “We work with elected county officials and circuit court judges every single day to minimize issues in county government so that everyone can do their jobs effectively. We vow we will continue to avail ourselves to the county clerk and every other elected official to work through issues so we can improve services.”

It’s not clear how much the lawsuit cost the county, Deldin said. Spranger hired an attorney and the county is not paying his fees, he said.

The county in the lawsuit said Spranger, who was elected in November, gave numerous reasons to prevent the move including the location of the bathrooms, which she said were “unworkable.” She also objected to moving the Vital Records employees and materials “to prevent fraud and abuse.”

The move is part of a $65 million project after a 2013 fire forced the relocation of several county departments into the cramped court building on a temporary basis, according to the lawsuit. The previous county clerk had provided input into the design of the new office space, officials said.

Spranger has been no stranger to controversy since taking office in January.

Last month, the county ethics board fined her $100 for ethics violations while acting on complaints from one of two top appointees Spranger fired in March. She was found in violation of the county’s ethics ordinance when she allowed non-county employees to access county computer equipment.

The fine follows county officials revoking her computer access in January. The former appointees filed a lawsuit in March claiming Spranger harassed them, and that the firings violated their First Amendment rights and the Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act.

Hours after receiving the ethics violations fine, Roseville Police cited Spranger for a crash while driving a county-owned vehicle. She told police her foot slipped off the brake pedal onto the gas, causing her car to accelerate. Spranger was cited for failure to stop within a clear assured distance and for not having proof of insurance.

cramirez@detroitnews.com