Our editorial: Macomb offers cautionary voting tale
For now, it appears the saga surrounding Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger is over. Last week, a judge removed the incompetent clerk, and this was residents’ best shot at showing her the door. This situation is a good reminder that voters should have some knowledge of a candidate’s qualifications.
Spranger, a Republican and a first-time office holder, got elected in November 2016 on the GOP wave that swept Donald Trump into office. But no one knew anything about her, and county residents have paid the price ever since.
It’s extremely difficult removing any elected official, and for good reason, as voters need to have faith in the election process. Recalls are expensive and rarely effective, and although the governor has leeway to remove officials like Spranger, the bar for negligence is very high and hard to prove.
But Spranger’s inability to do her job was wreaking havoc in the county offices, and putting a burden on taxpayers who rely on the clerk’s office to run smoothly. The troubled clerk was more concerned with conspiracy theories than she was with ensuring her office was properly staffed and operated.
She is expected to appeal the St. Clair County Circuit Court judge’s decision, which determined that Spranger falsified her address when she ran for office and did not meet the residency requirements to be the county’s clerk. She should just let this one go.
Spranger’s appointed chief deputy, Jackie Ryan, who oversaw the Register of Deeds, was placed on administrative leave and then discharged following her boss’ dismissal. And Ryan offers a good example of what’s been wrong at the Macomb clerk’s office.
On Wednesday, Ryan refused to leave the premises, sitting in her van all day in the parking lot — which intimidated some other employees.
County Commissioner Leon Drolet was alerted to what was going on and paid Ryan a visit. Drolet says Ryan informed him that she was “documenting all the illegal activity” and that the Trump administration was going to come and “put all these people in jail.”
Spranger has said similar nonsensical things in the last year. So it’s a positive development that the county can hit the reset button on its county clerk.
Drolet, a Republican, says he hopes the court will appoint a “bureaucrat” to run the office until Spranger’s replacement will be chosen in a special election this November. Although there have been calls by the county GOP for a Republican to fill the position in the interim, Drolet makes a good case for why this shouldn’t be a political decision. He and other commissioners have heard for months now from concerned county residents who simply want a functional office that can address their needs.
Circuit court judges will decide soon who should temporarily replace the clerk. Until then, a longtime county employee is filling in.
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, who has long been frustrated with Spranger, summed up the situation well in a press conference: “...They’re going to put somebody in that office at least temporarily to calm the issues and restore integrity to the office. I have never seen such chaos and such disarray from a public official.”
When Macomb voters choose their next clerk, they must do so carefully.