Macomb County has filed a motion of dismissal in response to a federal lawsuit that County Clerk Karen Spranger filed at the beginning of January.

Macomb County has filed a motion of dismissal in response to a federal lawsuit that County Clerk Karen Spranger filed at the beginning of January.

File photo by Joshua Gordon

Macomb County seeks dismissal in county clerk’s federal lawsuit

By: Joshua Gordon | C&G Newspapers | Published January 23, 2018

MACOMB COUNTY — Macomb County has filed a motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit against the county by Clerk Karen Spranger on the grounds that a federal court doesn’t oversee the local circuit court.

Spranger filed the lawsuit against Macomb County on Jan. 2 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit. In the suit, Spranger alleges a conspiracy against her and her job duties by county officials, a union representative and two local journalists.

The lawsuit came after St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Kelly ordered Spranger to not interfere with the county’s human resources department in filling 14 vacancies in Spranger’s office as well as allowing the county to file a countersuit to her existing circuit court lawsuit against the county.

In the federal lawsuit, Spranger is asking the court to dissolve the county’s countersuit, dissolve a temporary restraining order by the union and for all those involved to cease and desist in their civil conspiracy.

John Schapka, corporate counsel for Macomb County, said his motion to dismiss highlights two reasons Judge George Caram Steeh should grant the motion — federal courts don’t oversee cases in state courts, and Spranger did not state a claim for the $100,000 she is asking for in damages.

“There are two Supreme Court cases that have set the law for a very long time that if a case is in state courts, the federal courts can’t meddle,” Schapka said. “Federal courts are not the overseer and don’t meddle in state court affairs.”

When Spranger first filed the suit, Schapka said she also wants the court to stop an alleged conspiracy, even though she doesn’t name any of the alleged conspirators as defendants, meaning the court can’t order them to do anything.

Those whom Spranger named in the alleged conspiracy include Schapka; Macomb County Deputy Executive Mark Deldin; Human Resources Director Karen Bathanti; Donna Cangemi, president of the AFSCME Local 411 union; Macomb County Circuit Court Judge James Biernat Jr.; WDIV Channel 4 reporter Jason Colthorp; and Macomb Daily reporter Jameson Cook.

Spranger alleges in the suit that those named served as “county actors” to conspire against her and hinder her ability to appoint and hire employees. She also claims she is being targeted by the county for reporting fraud and abuse in the county as part of an ongoing federal investigation into corruption.

“The county of Macomb actors have endless resources called ‘taxpayer dollars’ at their disposal to scavenge the duties and responsibilities of my duly-elected offices,” Spranger said in an email. “Most of the legal filings by former Kwame Kilpatrick lawyer (John) Schapka is best described as mumbo jumbo. His legal opinions are shortsighted and narrow-minded.

“The public comments by the host of named county actors and their agents is a stack of half facts and bountiful outright lies. Their own evidence will be questioned during discovery to prove their civil conspiracy.”

Spranger originally filed a lawsuit against Macomb County last summer in Macomb County Circuit Court asking the court to rule as it pertains to her job duties, among other things. The case was eventually moved to Kelly in St. Clair County Circuit Court, as Spranger also serves as clerk for the Macomb County Circuit Court.

In September, Kelly ruled that the county could file the countersuit that questions Spranger’s residency on her November 2016 election affidavit and if she actually lived at the Hudson Avenue home in Warren.

The countersuit states that Warren city records show there has been no water service to the house in years, and it is uninhabitable. Spranger responded that having a lack of water doesn’t make it uninhabitable, and that the county was trying to deprive her of her constitutional right to run for office because of her financial circumstances.

Now, Spranger’s lawyer in the circuit court cases, Frank Cusumano Jr., is seeking to have himself removed as Spranger’s lawyer, a motion that will be heard by Kelly on Jan. 29.

The U.S. District Court will hear Macomb County’s motion for dismissal on Feb. 27.