New recall petitions filed against Warren mayor, clerk

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published May 14, 2014

WARREN — A resident who unsuccessfully sought approval for recall petitions targeting Warren’s mayor and city clerk in April has filed new petitions with revised language. However, it won’t be determined if the effort will move forward until county elections officials meet later this month.

An employee in the office of Macomb County Clerk Carmella Sabaugh confirmed separate recall petitions naming Warren Mayor Jim Fouts and City Clerk Paul Wojno were filed by resident Karen Spranger May 5. Spranger, a frequent critic of the city’s elected officials and its policies ranging from assessed taxes to the installation of smart meters, previously sought approval for a pair of petitions outlining a long list of complaints against Fouts and Wojno.

The Macomb County Election Commission ruled April 15 the language lacked sufficient clarity.

Spranger’s new petition that named Fouts centers on last year’s flap over comments made by the mayor during private phone conversations with a former staffer that included violent, profanity-filled remarks directed at two former city employees. The petition also mentions the settlement of a whistleblower lawsuit with the former appointee but seemingly fails to pinpoint any specific allegation.

“I tried to narrow it down to the lawsuit that cost our city $175,000,” Spranger said. “As I was researching it and learning more, and talking to other people, I just thought the conduct of office, that was a very serious offense, when you threaten someone physically.”

The petition naming Wojno claims the removal of deceased voters from the Qualified Voter File “is the responsibility of local elections officials,” and states that Wojno is responsible for the storage of election equipment. It also points out that Wojno is a member of Warren’s Election Commission but again seems to fall short of making a specific allegation.

“I’m just speculating something doesn’t make sense in the process, how they’re doing things,” Spranger said. “When you question it and are not getting an answer, that doesn’t make me feel comfortable as a resident and as a senior that our elections are accurate.”

Reached for comment on the new petition May 6, Fouts said the statements have nothing to do with his work as mayor and alleged Spranger had aligned herself with his political rivals.

“There’s little that has to do with me. This is a well-run city, a well-managed city,” Fouts said. “She’s just allowing herself to be used by people that are unhappy with the election results in 2011.”

Wojno was more reserved in his assessment but also pointed out that the language failed to criticize his job performance.

“I’d like to say that Karen and I have known each other for several years, and I don’t take any of this personally,” Wojno said. “The secretary of state, the county clerk and the local clerk all play a role in removing individuals (from the QVF). I see no complaints in her statement about the job that we do.”

Sabaugh, Macomb County Treasurer Ted Wahby and Macomb County Judge of Probate Kathryn George sit on the county’s Election Commission. The commission was tentatively scheduled to meet at 8 a.m. May 21 to determine whether the petitions meet the standards for factual accuracy and clarity required by state statute.