“Officials impacted by Macomb clerk’s election land new jobs”
By Jameson Cook, The Macomb Daily
Three people who found themselves jobless as a result of Karen Spranger’s upset victory in the Macomb County clerk’s election quickly landed new posts — two in public roles and one in the private sector.
Fred Miller, who narrowly lost to Spranger last November, was hired in early January as community relations director for Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner.
Meanwhile, former Clerk Carmella Sabaugh’s two prior appointees, former deputy clerk Todd Schmitz and former register of deeds Craig Jones, were not jobless long. Schmitz is an assistant Macomb County prosecutor, and Jones got a job at Kofile Technologies Inc., which performs records preservation and data management. Spranger replaced Schmitz and Jones with Paul Kardasz as chief deputy clerk and Erin Stahl as chief register of deeds, respectively.
Miller, who gave up his county commissioner post to run for county clerk, said it “wasn’t a hard sell” to agree to join the staff of fellow Democrat Meisner, who was re-elected to a four-year term in November.
He said while the loss to Republican Spranger was disappointing, it hasn’t discouraged him from continuing his career in public service. He also has served as a state representative.
“The voters have spoken,” he said. “I respect that. I’m lucky I’m in a spot where I can help people and put my experience to work.”
For the first time publicly, Miller addressed what turned out to be an unfounded allegation and Ethics Board complaint that claims he and Sabaugh conspired to give him a better chance to succeed the longtime clerk by filing for re-election then withdrawing at the last moment.
Miller defeated Warren City Clerk Paul Wojno in the primary but lost by about 600 votes to Spranger, who clung to President Donald Trump’s coattails.
Miller denied a conspiracy, although in a video Miller posted on Facebook that was time-stamped four days before Sabaugh’s withdrawal, he thanked her for her prior service.
“I know it’s hard for people to believe it, but there was never a deal,” he said. “There was no explicit deal cut between her and me.”
She never indicated she was going to retire, but he said, “I had reason to believe she was going to step down.”
He admitted he made a mistake.
“I was trying to force an outcome. I acted too aggressively,” said Miller, who analysts acknowledged campaigned hard for the post.
The Ethics complaint by activist Greg Murray was dismissed, and Murray’s request for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to monitor the election was denied.
In his new job, he plans to forge his experience, six years each as a county commissioner and state representative, pointing out Oakland County government operates a little differently, on a state law instead of a county charter like in Macomb.
“Being back in public service is an honor,” Miller said. “My 12 years as a state representative and county commissioner was a very enriching experience.”
Miller said despite commuting daily from his Mount Clemens home 45 minutes to Pontiac, he plans to remain active in local and regional politics and expand his focus. In a Jan. 6 email to supporters, he said he founded White Pine Group “as a vehicle to continue political work and expand into other spaces … and hopefully add value to clients’ efforts to communicate, organize and advance policy solutions.
“My intent is to be active locally supporting candidates and allies,” he said in an email.
If he had been elected, he said he would have retained Schmitz and Jones, and praised Sabaugh and her staff for their innovative advancements.
“I really respected the team Carmella put together,” he said. “It really seemed like a high-functioning operation. It wouldn’t make sense to come in and change things.”
Miller declined to discuss Spranger, whose first month in office has drawn concern from county officials and employees. Administrators even took the unusual step of blocking her access to digital systems at her office, citing her sharing log-in credentials with non-employees.
Schmitz, who served 14 years as Sabaugh’s top deputy, was hired by county Prosecutor Eric Smith to not only to prosecute cases but to advise Smith on technology. Schmitz brings vast technology knowledge to the post after he and Sabaugh brought many high-tech advancements to the clerk’s office for which the office was recognized nationally.
“It’s nice to have someone who is so tech savvy in the office,” Smith said. “He has been a real win for the office.”
Schmitz and staffers are already working on several improvements, said Schmitz and Smith, who has pushed for more technology in his office.
“I am honored to serve Prosecutor Eric J. Smith, who is tough on crime and has some great technology ideas,” said Schmitz, an Eastpointe resident.
Schmitz practiced elder and estate law before he worked for the county so he brings that experience as well, Smith pointed out.
Smith admitted Schmitz is “green when it comes to prosecutions” so he is starting as a level 1 assistant prosecutor assigned to a district court. Schmitz took a pay cut, going from a salary of $95,979 to $73,032, according to county records.
Jones, meanwhile, served about 2-1/2 years as the deputy register of deeds, taking over the post following a retirement. Jones, who worked for Xerox and ACS in records management prior to joining Sabaugh’s staff, said while he was surprised with the election outcome, he was prepared to move on.
“It was a known risk when I took the position with Carmella,” he said.
He said his new job at Texas-based Kofile “is a good fit.” A Washington Township resident, he is a salesman/account manager for Michigan, he said.
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