Judge won’t rule on Spranger residency suit right away

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Port Huron – A judge isn’t expected to decide for at least two weeks whether Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger falsified her address to run for office and should be removed.

Attorneys for Macomb County and Spranger faced off for about an hour Monday before St. Clair County Circuit Judge Daniel J. Kelly, but the issue was not resolved.

According to one of the litigants, Macomb County Corporation Counsel John Schapka, Kelly has taken the matter under advisement.

“The judge said these are important issues and he plans to release a written opinion in a couple weeks,” said Schapka. “We agree this is important and are glad he is taking it seriously.”

Spranger did not attend the hearing and in the past has referred questions to her attorney, Frank J. Cusumano Jr., who could not be reached for comment Monday.

Schapka said the county’s position has always been that Spranger “falsified and perjured herself” on an affidavit in which she listed a Warren home as her address on April 6, 2016, when she filed papers to run for elected office in Macomb County. Spranger, a Republican, subsequently won the November 2016 election, defeating Democrat Fred Miller by 635 votes – 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent. She took office in January 2017.

“We did an investigation and found that the house had no water or electricity, or natural gas for several years,” said Schapka. “Property taxes were frequently delinquent and mail – including citations from the city for blight violations – were returned from the address because no one was living there. Neighbors said no one was living there and when a search warrant was obtained, trash and garbage was stacked up throughout the address, which indicated no one had been there since 2011.

“I don’t need to prove where she lived,” said Schapka. “Just where she did not live on April 6, 2016.”

Spranger, 65, and a sister own the Hudson Avenue address. She has maintained that whether it had utilities, it was always her legal residence and that she had a driver’s license, voter registration and campaign committee all listed there as her address. Cusumano has said his client frequently stayed elsewhere with friends but insisted she lived at the Warren address.

“Interestingly, she had a Bridge card which was used extensively in western Wayne County communities, including at a Kroger store,” Schapka said. “Apparently there are no Krogers within a 50-mile radius of Warren.”

Schapka said Spranger dropped the Bridge card when she began drawing an annual salary of more than $108,000 as county clerk.

The county’s suit was filed in St. Clair County after the entire Macomb County Circuit Court bench recused themselves from hearing it.

Schapka is seeking a court order that would determine Spranger has committed misconduct sufficient to have her removed from her office. He said Monday if Kelly denies the county’s request, they will seek to have the matter decided by a jury.

Since taking office a year ago, Spranger has been embroiled in a series of political fights with other officials and has clashed with the county workers’ union over work rules for the 85 employees she supervises. A lawsuit she filed against several county officials, a union president and two news reporters, alleging they colluded to prevent her from doing her job, is pending in federal court.


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