Circuit court judges appoint longtime county employee as temporary clerk

By: Joshua Gordon | C&G Newspapers | Published May 10, 2018

 Longtime county employee Kathy Smith was selected by the Macomb County Circuit Court judges as the temporary county clerk until the November election for an official replacement to former Clerk Karen Spranger.

Longtime county employee Kathy Smith was selected by the Macomb County Circuit Court judges as the temporary county clerk until the November election for an official replacement to former Clerk Karen Spranger.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

MOUNT CLEMENS — Macomb County has a new clerk, at least until an elected official takes over the position following the November election.

The judges of Macomb County Circuit Court held a meeting May 7 to select a temporary clerk following former Clerk Karen Spranger being removed from office. Spranger was removed after a ruling in St. Clair County Circuit Court that she lied on her election affidavit for the November 2016 election.

Judge James Biernat Jr. had placed Kathy Brower into the position in March as Spranger was immediately removed from the position. Brower sent an email to Biernat prior to the May 7 meeting stating she did not want to be considered for the temporary position.

Instead, the judges unanimously selected longtime county employee Kathy Smith for the position. Smith has held a number of positions, most recently as judicial secretary for Judge Jennifer Faunce.

“I am very appreciative of the judges. I have worked here for 34 years and worked with everyone in the department,” Smith said following her appointment at Macomb County Circuit Court. “We have a great group of people here, and I want to keep it going for the next elected official. I am nervous, elated and very happy.”

A new clerk will be named later this year, however, as Smith said she is not running for the official position in November. There are 17 candidates who have registered to run for the position, including 11 Republicans, which Spranger ran as, and six Democrats.

Smith, 51, started working for the Macomb County Clerk’s Office at 17 in 1984 until 2012, holding  positions including typist clerk, computer maintenance clerk and judicial court clerk, before transitioning into positions with the court. The county clerk also serves as the clerk for Macomb County Circuit Court.

Before a vote was taken, Judge Edward Servitto Jr. said his support was behind Smith, who served as a clerk in his courtroom for 10 years. Servitto said all the people who applied for the temporary position were qualified, but Smith would bring stability to the position with her work history.

“My concern is with the employees (in the Clerk’s Office), as there is a problem and has been a problem that needs to be addressed,” Servitto said. “With Kathy’s experience and familiarity with the Clerk’s Office and the employees, I think she can bring stability and experience. I think she would be an excellent person to alleviate the concerns of the employees.”

In her email and comment in a press release, Brower said she was always only supposed to be a temporary replacement for a few weeks, and Biernat said she will return to the Court Administrator’s Office. Brower stated that she will do what she can to help make a smooth transition for Smith.

Smith said her first priority will be meeting with the employees of the Clerk’s Office to hear all their concerns before buckling down for the remainder of the year.

“My plan is just to get the Clerk’s Office back to running like it was,” Smith said. “It should be very easy getting it back to where it needs to be because we have great people.”

Spranger filed a lawsuit last summer in Macomb County Circuit Court against the county seeking a ruling on her job duties. The case was eventually moved to Judge Daniel Kelly in St. Clair County Circuit Court, where the county filed a countersuit questioning the address that Spranger used on her election affidavit.

In the counsteruit, the county claimed that Spranger did not live at the Hudson Avenue address in Warren, citing a lack of utilities, uninhabitable conditions and a use of the Michigan Bridge Card exclusively in western Wayne County.

In his written opinion on March 27, Kelly said there was no evidence that Spranger lived in Warren, and therefore she had usurped the office of the county clerk and was not eligible for the position. The county took immediate steps to remove her from office following the ruling.

During the May 7 hearing, Chesterfield Township Clerk Cindy Berry spoke to the judges prior to the appointment of Smith, laying out the importance of the position for the county.

“It is very important to have a leader in the county Clerk’s Office who understands the statutory responsibilities of being a clerk,” Berry said. “They are there to assist those like myself, and it is important to have a competent and reliable individual in that position.”