Macomb County Clerk Fred Miller says “much-needed stability” and “normalcy” returned last year during his first full year in office.
Miller, who began serving in November 2018, cites many accomplishments in his recently issued annual report of the county Clerk and Register of Deeds.
Miller doesn’t mention former clerk Karen Spranger in the 20-page report but the inference is obvious. Spranger, a Republican, served a tumultuous 15 months until March 2017 when she was removed by a judge due to lack of county residency. Miller, a Democrat who lost to Spranger in the November 2016 election, won the final two years of her term in November 2018 and is up for re-election this year.
“As our Annual Report to the Community shows, 2019 saw significant progress made to re-establish the Macomb County Clerk & Register of Deeds Office as a national leader in innovation and excellence. Nothing short of this goal is acceptable,” Miller says in a letter accompanying the report, a reference to the pre-Spranger clerk Carmella Sabaugh, a Democrat whose operations won many national awards.
“The Clerk & Register of Deeds team — 91 members strong when fully-staffed — is a phenomenal group of men and women who provide exceptional public service on a daily basis. Their dedication inspires me every day.”
The report mentions Chief Deputy Clerk Sheila Miller (no relation) and Chief Deputy Register of Deeds Brian Brdak.
Average lobby wait times for services — which became a problem under Spranger mostly due to declining staff — fell to all-time lows in serving 102,000 people last year, the report says.
The wait for circuit court filings was more than eight minutes in 2017 and skyrocketed to more than 14 minutes in 2018. But it dropped last year to 7:18, according to the report.
Waiting in the circuit court file room, which was more than seven minutes in 2017 and over five minutes in 2018, dropped to 3:35 last year, the report says.
Wait times for a concealed piston license, copy of death record and marriage application were down from more than 10 minutes in 2017 and more than three minutes in 2018 to less than three minutes last year.
The wait for Register of Deeds records was nearly four minutes in 2017 and more than three minutes in 2018. Last year, the average wait was 2:42, the report says.
Miller cited other accomplishments:
• The Mobile Clerk’s Office traversing to 16 locations in the county.
• Over $300,000 in savings to the County General Fund and the Automation Fund in 2019 and over $400,000 in projected annual savings for 2020 and beyond.
• Replacement of outdated server that housed citizens’ Vital Records data (birth and death records, marriage licenses, CPL’s, etc.) to enhance the security of data and protect citizens’ privacy.
• Establishment of the Senior Advocacy Hotline, which offers help and assistance to Macomb County seniors via a dedicated phone line and live respondent to assist with services or referrals
The report also notes more than 93 percent of telephone calls to the Clerk’s Office were answered due to implementation of an “Interactive Voice Response” system. It “rotated calls around the offices with impressive results,” a dramatic increase from slightly more than a 50 percent rate previously, the report says.
Miller, in coordination with the Treasurer’s Office, initiated the “second chance program” that allowed former candidates for public office to catch up with delinquent payments for late fees and penalties in filing campaign finance reports. There was more than $400,000 outstanding payments by 117 candidates. In the partial amnesty program, candidates were allowed to pay half to clear their delinquency.
The Clerk’s Office introduced a jury room “Trivia Challenge,” with facts about Macomb County, the county’s history, sports and entertainment, and the legal system for over 15,700 annual jurors waiting to possibly be called for trial.
The office is conducting an “I Voted!” sticker design contest for K-12 students in the county, with three elections planned for this year.
The report was released last week and is available to view and download at macombgov.org/ClerkRoD.
— Macomb Daily staff report