Commissioners stress urgency for county clerk to catch up on court paperwork

 Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger met with the Board of Commissioners Nov. 30 to discuss the state of her office.

Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger met with the Board of Commissioners Nov. 30 to discuss the state of her office.

Photo by Joshua Gordon


By: Joshua Gordon | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published December 7, 2017

MOUNT CLEMENS — Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger met the Board of Commissioners’ deadline for a report on the state of her office, but at the Nov. 30 board meeting, most commissioners weren’t pleased with the backlog of paperwork in Spranger’s office.

The board asked Spranger on Nov. 9 to provide the report to the commissioners by Nov. 28, after the clerk failed to meet a deadline set by the Macomb County Circuit Court to clear a backlog of court documents and fill positions in her office.

The letter from the court stated the Clerk’s Office was behind on more than 1,600 Law Enforcement Information Network criminal history reports dating back to August, as well as nearly 3,000 e-filing bundles.

In her report to the board, and at the Nov. 30 board meeting that Spranger attended to further clarify her report, Spranger said the backlog of LEIN reports is now actually around 4,400 and several months behind. Several commissioners said not only does that present an issue for the court and law enforcement, but it represents a public safety risk to residents.

“This is a very serious problem, and out of all the problems we have with you, this should be the problem that is the most important, because the public is now at risk,” said Commissioner Kathy Tocco, D-Fraser. “This is not acceptable.”

Spranger said one person who knew how to do the LEIN reports and was certified to do so retired this year. She said three employees have taken the course to become LEIN certified and just have to have the test scheduled.

She confirmed that only one person is doing the reports at this time, and that is LEIN Terminal Agency Coordinator Lisa Emerson, also the chief deputy clerk. In the court’s letter to Spranger, it said Spranger did not acknowledge Emerson as an employee and did not have a dedicated staff for LEIN work.

Spranger acknowledged the importance of LEIN being up to date, but could not provide a date when that would happen. Commission Chair Bob Smith, D-Clinton Township, said the standard is for LEIN to be no more than a day behind.

“We had only one person who did this, and she retired, and to replace her takes training and certification,” Spranger said. “People need to know when they get pulled over what the charges are against them, and if they have been dropped or pending, and if they are on the record. It is a very critically important task.”

Commissioner Jim Carabelli, R-Shelby Township, asked Spranger to go to human resources to help get more people entering the process to get certified to do the LEIN reports, as well as allow people to work overtime to get caught up.

In her report, Spranger said she had 13 staff openings, although she said during the meeting she made a mistake and it was actually 10. Carabelli said he spoke to human resources and they told him she had 15 open positions.

Carabelli asked Spranger to reach out to the Michigan Association of County Clerks and nearby county clerks to assist her in getting on track.

“We are frustrated because we care,” Carabelli said. “We got elected to do a job to represent our residents and make sure they are getting what their tax dollars are paying for. You may not like some of the processes, but at the end of the day, you have to follow them. You can’t change the process by not doing anything.

“We need you to win. You need to help yourself. You need to follow the rules that are here.”

For the backlog on e-filings, Spranger said it was a combination of her responsibility and the new software that the court uses. 

Commissioner Robert Leonetti, D-St. Clair Shores, said that as an attorney who has also worked in Oakland County, he can get a notification that his e-filing has been entered into the system within 12 minutes there.

Smith said it doesn’t appear Spranger has any sense of urgency in getting her work done, while others around her are trying to help.

“It is time to look in the mirror and realize the problem is within and that you don’t want anybody’s help,” Smith said. “You don’t like union rules, human resource rules or county rules. You don’t like rules, but there are certain situations where we have to follow the rules.

“You have discounted any rules this county has and gone your own way.”

The board said it would review Spranger’s report and statements ahead of the next meeting.

In the summer, Spranger filed a lawsuit against Macomb County, listing numerous complaints and seeking the court’s judgement as it pertains to her duties. The county filed a countersuit in September that questions Spranger’s residency on her election affidavit from 2016 and whether she actually lived in the Warren home she listed on the form.

That case is ongoing in St. Clair County Circuit Court after it was moved out of Macomb County Circuit Court.