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Macomb Clerk sues over firearm ban in county offices

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Correction: George Brikho pleaded no contest in 1999 to misdemeanor aggravated assault. This story has been updated to correctly state his plea.

Mount Clemens — Macomb County Clerk/Register of Deeds Karen Spranger is suing county officials in an effort to have the “no firearm zone” status removed from the two buildings that house her county offices.

In a seven-count lawsuit filed Thursday, Spranger is suing Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, the county’s Board of Commissioners and its ethics board. She’s also seeking redress and an injunction against perceived wrongs by county officials against her, according to Spranger’s attorney Frank Cusumano Jr.

“The Office of the County Executive has persistently intruded in the management, supervision and control of the Clerk’s Office,” Cusumano said in a press release Friday, which stressed Spranger has been repeatedly rebuffed in her efforts to resolve disputes with officials so is now turning to the courts to help.

The lawsuit, assigned to Judge Kathryn Viviano, begins with alleging that county efforts to make all buildings occupied by county employees “firearms free” is an illegal and unenforceable action. Spranger wants the ban lifted at the Talmer and Administration buildings because they do not have courtrooms or related offices, where firearms are banned.

Macomb County corporation counsel John Schapka said no one has been served with the complaint but he described Spranger as having “squandered the taxpayer’s money for the sole purpose of bullying the entire county government...”

“I’m less than impressed by the quality of legal scholarship reflected in the scattered and confused pleadings which have no realistic chance of success,” Schapka said. “Considering some recent events, such as at the Flint airport, I find some of this absolutely irresponsible.”

The lawsuit is the most recent development in Spranger’s brief but controversial time as elected clerk and register of deeds. It also caps a week in which she verbally sparred with commissioners and union officials in a public meeting over her handling of her office and was notified that her choice for a chief deputy clerk was unacceptable.

On Tuesday, Macomb County Chief Circuit Judge James Biernat wrote Spranger that her choice of George Brikho for chief deputy clerk “was not appropriate.” Brikho pleaded no contest in 1999 to misdemeanor aggravated assault. Brikho was ordered to one year probation and anger management classes.

Spranger, a Republican who has never held political office, won a surprise victory for her elected post in November over Democratic candidate Fred Miller, a former state representative and county commissioner.

Since then, she has been embroiled in one political fight after another. She fired her former deputy clerk and another at-will employee and was subsequently sued.

She’s been at odds with county unions over work rules for 85 employees she supervises and came under fire when she attempted to block the moving of her offices and workers into another building — a plan which had been in the works for months prior to her November victory.

Spranger also was fined by the county ethics committee for violating provisions of the use of the county computer system by non-county workers. She is appealing that $100 fine and, as part of this week’s lawsuit, is alleging the ethics board violated her due-process rights by not permitting her attorney to call witnesses at two ethics board hearings.

Among allegations contained in her lawsuit, Spranger is also contesting certain filing fees charged to the public and new rules adopted by the county board that she believes undercuts her authority.

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