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Macomb County activist asks state to oversee upcoming elections

July 15,2016 15:00

A well-known Macomb County activist who filed an ethics complaint alleging collusion in the county clerk's race has asked the state to oversee Macomb County's primary election Aug. 2 and the general election in November. Greg Murray, a Mt. Clemens ...

Christina Hall, Detroit Free Press 6:23 p.m. EDT July 14, 2016A well-known Macomb County activist who filed an ethics complaint alleging collusion in the county clerk's race has asked the state to oversee Macomb County's primary election Aug. 2 and the general election in November.Greg Murray, a Mt. Clemens resident and executive director of the Michigan Advocacy Coalition, sent a letter dated July 10 to Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson asking for the oversight because he is "concerned that the integrity of the Macomb County primary election may be compromised ... I use the word 'compromised' based on the erratic behavior of the current retiring county clerk and one of the candidates for her position."There seems to be a high probability of collusion to restrict the field of candidates."Related: Activists accuse Macomb County official of race-tinged politicsRelated: Activist charges Macomb Democrats with collusionMurray said today the ethics complaint remains under investigation and he believes County Clerk/Register of Deeds Carmella Sabaugh is "being held hostage to the whims" of the Democratic party bosses in the county, adding "she's never engaged in that kind of behavior before.""I think transparency will help eliminate potential impropriety," he said.But Sabaugh said: "I think we've run very good elections. We're so transparent in the process."Johnson's office is reviewing Murray's request, spokesman Fred Woodhams said today."The department sometimes receives complaints about clerks and requests to oversee a local election. The department typically listens to the concerns of the person complaining and speaks with the clerk about them to ensure the election is properly conducted. It is not uncommon that Bureau of Election staff visit multiple communities on Election Day to provide assistance to local election officials," Woodhams wrote in an e-mail.In May, Murray filed a complaint against Sabaugh and County Commissioner Fred Miller with the the county's ethics board claiming they violated the county's ethics ordinance in what some have seen as an attempted election fix. Murray also mentioned former Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer, who is running for Miller’s county board seat as Miller makes a run for county clerk/register of deeds after Sabaugh withdrew from seeking re-election.The complaint is under investigation by the county ethics board, chairman Donald Amboyer said. When asked how long the investigation would take, Amboyer declined further comment.Murray's request to the state repeats his concerns in his ethics complaint.Miller, a Democrat, filed to run for clerk/register of deeds April 19, the last day candidates could file for office. That’s the same day he withdrew running for his county board seat, which covers Mt. Clemens and portions of Clinton and Harrison townships, and Brewer filed to run for that county board seat.Three days later — April 22 — and after many rumors that she was not going to run again, Sabaugh, 77, a Democrat serving more than two decades in that county office, withdrew from the election 15 minutes before the withdrawal deadline. She threw her support behind Miller when interviewed after withdrawing.Two other Democrats in addition to Miller – Warren City Clerk Paul Wojno and Denise Doherty, formerly Denise Greiner – and four Republicans will face off in the August primary.In the ethics board complaint and the letter to the state, Murray references Miller uploading a video to Facebook, apparently made days before the filing and withdrawal deadlines. In the video, Miller said Sabaugh won’t be seeking re-election, but he later acknowledged in a blog post that he produced the video but did not know Sabaugh's precise intentions in advance.In his letter to the state, Murray said he was concerned Sabaugh prejudiced herself in favor of Miller."By participating in a political 'bait and switch' to discourage other potential candidates from running for Macomb County Clerk, Carmella Sabaugh has actually disenfranchised every voter in Macomb County by denying more choices for her vacating seat," Murray wrote in his letter to the state, adding that he filed an ethics complaint referencing "these shenanigans."He writes in the letter that the ethics board investigation probably will not be concluded until after the Aug. 2 primary, which is why he is requesting a representative from the state office conduct and oversee the county election process then and in November."I am making this request to ensure the highest level of transparency and accountability, and to ensure that Sabaugh’s action not interfere with or supplant the will of the residents and voters of Macomb County," Murray wrote in the letter.Contact Christina Hall: chall99@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter: @challreporter.Read or Share this story: http://on.freep.com/29FVjEn

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