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The embattled Macomb County clerk could face assault charges for allegedly kicking a court clerk while trying to force her way into an office Monday, county officials say. 

Deputy County Executive Mark Deldin said the incident happened as the court clerk was complaining to her immediate supervisor about verbal harassment and intimidation from County Clerk Karen Spranger. 

Police were called to the Clerk’s Office to investigate the alleged assault Monday.

“The sheriff’s department is reviewing video surveillance, and everything is being turned over to the county prosecutor,” Deldin said. “They will determine whether there is evidence or not to charge Ms. Spranger with assault.” 

Spranger declined to comment on the matter, but Jackie Ryan, Spranger’s deputy clerk, said told the media there was an incident Monday morning, but Spranger didn’t hurt or touch anyone.

“That’s not what happened at all,” Ryan said.

Her comments came about an hour after the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office said it was investigating reports that Spranger made inappropriate travel expenditures.

Ryan’s account of the Spranger’s incident with the court clerk differs slightly from the story Deldin provided. 

Deldin said he received an email from the court clerk saying she was meeting with her supervisor when Spranger attempted to enter the office but the door was locked. 

As the court clerk was leaving the office, Spranger again tried to enter the office using her foot to kick open the door but instead she kicked the court clerk in the leg.

Ryan said a group of clerks who work under Spranger was in another office and speaking with a supervisor when Spranger was set to enter, Ryan said. Spranger wanted to speak to the supervisor and asked to be admitted into the office, she said. 

Supervisors in Spranger’s office are represented by the United Auto Workers union.

“Karen knocked and the clerks refused to let her in, which is insubordination,” Ryan said. “So (Karen) waited and the clerk came out and she bumped right into (the county clerk) aggressively and was angry.”

About 20 minutes to Up to a half-hour later, the county clerk again approached the Supervisor’s Office to speak to her, knocked on the door, but the worker wouldn’t let her in, she said. 

“She then came out of the office and stepped on the county clerk’s foot,” Ryan said. “This clerk is twice the size of the county clerk. The county clerk couldn’t move and the clerk slammed the door, turns around and smacks the county clerk.”

They exchanged a few words and Spranger returned to her office and “it looks like the clerk called the police because she smacked the county clerk,” Ryan said.

Deldin said the county has a court injunction against Spranger that prohibits her from interfering with court office operations. Her actions Monday would have been in violation of that injunction, he said. 

A spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office said referred only to a statement confirming the travel expenditure investigation was all the agency had to say at this point. She said she had no information to release on the alleged conflicts.incident.

“The Macomb County Sheriff’s Office has received a complaint regarding travel expenditures made by Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger and is currently investigating it,” the agency said in a statement said.

Spranger’s deputy clerk said Monday there were no inappropriate travel expenditures. At the center of the allegations are Spranger’s trip to a National Association of Counties conference March 3-7 in Washington D.C., Ryan said.

“I checked with the Finance Department myself to see who could go and they told me anyone could go as long as they attended the conference,” she said. “They’re just making something out of absolutely nothing in order to harm the county clerk and cause sabotage as we try to expose fraud here at the county.”

Ryan said she and her son drove Spranger to the conference. Spranger originally planned to fly, but the weather was too bad. “We drove straight through.”

She also said the three of them shared a hotel room. “The county clerk likes to save money,” Ryan said. 

She said she and Spranger have not yet done their expense reports for the trip because her office was moved.

Ryan said there were two incidents that happened in Monday morning’s dust-up with an employee in her department.

First, a group of clerks who work under Spranger was in another office and speaking with a supervisor when Spranger was set to enter, Ryan said. Spranger wanted to speak to the supervisor and asked to be admitted into the office, she said. 

Supervisors in Spranger’s office are represented by the United Auto Workers union.

“Karen knocked and the clerks refused to let her in, which is insubordination,” Ryan said. “So (Karen) waited and the clerk came out and she bumped right into (the county clerk) aggressively and was angry.”

About 20 minutes to a half-hour later, the county clerk again approached the supervisor’s office to speak to her, knocked on the door, but the worker wouldn’t let her in, she said. 

“She then came out of the office and stepped on the county clerk’s foot,” Ryan said. “This clerk is twice the size of the county clerk. The county clerk couldn’t move and the clerk slammed the door, turns around and smacks the county clerk.”

They exchanged a few words and Spranger returned to her office and “it looks like the clerk called the police because she smacked the county clerk,” Ryan said.

On Saturday, sheriff’s deputies were called to the Macomb County Circuit Court building after Spranger allegedly disrupted a move of her office. No arrests were made.

The county is moving the Clerk’s Office to the first floor of the courthouse because remodeling of the building is complete, officials. Spranger had previously protested the move to the third floor of the building. 

In December, the Circuit Court issued an injunction against Spranger, who has been in several contentious battles with the county since she was elected in 2016, saying she must not interfere with union employees.

A Republican who had has never held political office, Spranger has clashed with county officials since taking office she became clerk in January 2017. She earns $108,880 a year as clerk and register of deeds.

Since taking office, she has been embroiled in a series of political squabbles.

After three months on the job, she fired her deputy clerk and another at-will employee and was subsequently sued.

She has also fought with the county workers’ union over work rules for 85 employees whom she supervises and came under fire when she attempted to block the moving of her offices and workers into another building — a plan in the works for months prior to her election. Her spat with the county over the move prompted county officials to file a lawsuit against her that eventually was settled.

Spranger also was fined by the county Ethics Committee for violating provisions of the use of the county computer system by non-county workers.

Hours after the fined was issuedleveled against her, Roseville police cited Spranger for a crash involving her county-issued vehicle. Police said Spranger rear-ended another car stopped at an intersection.

In June 2017, she filed a lawsuit against Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, the county’s Board of Commissioners and its Ethics Committee to have the “no firearm zone” status removed from the two buildings that house her county offices.
 

 

cramirez@detroitnews.com

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