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State oversight of Macomb County elections requested by activist Murray

July 14,2016 12:26

2 election. While he didn't list any contests on the ballot that he hopes get extra attention, Murray told The Macomb Daily he mostly is concerned with the accurate handling by Sabaugh's office of the county clerk's race –- a post she is vacating at ...

A community activist who filed an ethics complaint against Macomb County Clerk Carmella Sabaugh has asked state officials to oversee the primary election in the county and also the general election in the fall.
Greg Murray said he submitted the request to Secretary of State Ruth Johnson this week in order to preserve the integrity of the Aug. 2 election. While he didnt list any contests on the ballot that he hopes get extra attention, Murray told The Macomb Daily he mostly is concerned with the accurate handling by Sabaughs office of the county clerks race - a post she is vacating at the end of 2016 after 24 years in that office.
Sabaugh initially filed in April to run for a seventh term. Three days after telling the newspaper that rumors she would drop out of the race were wishful thinking, she pulled out on April 22 less than 15 minutes before the withdrawal deadline.
Macomb County Commissioner Fred Miller of Mount Clemens was among three other Democrats who also had filed as a candidate for clerk. But in a video Miller posted on Facebook that was time-stamped four days before Sabaughs withdrawal, he thanked her for her prior service. Both came under fire amid accusations of political conspiracy.


In his letter to the Secretary of State, Murray pointed to those circumstances as the basis for his request for state oversight of the elections that he fears would otherwise 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, he said in the letter to Johnson.
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, he wrote.
The request for state oversight is not the first formal action by Murray against Sabaugh. On May 2, he filed a complaint with the Macomb County Ethics Board, accusing Sabaugh and Miller of coordinated and unfair actions that claims amounted to collusion in the electoral process.
Murray, executive director of the Michigan Advocacy Coalition who also once served on the Board of Education in the Mount Clemens Community Schools, has resided in the county for 15 years and served as an elections specialist for Clinton Township during the 2012 president election. He was once an elections challenger in Detroit where he claims he has witnessed unusual election activity and circumstances. He also once penned a regular opinion column in The Macomb Daily.
Im not saying Carmella would do any of this but because of the nature of how this whole process (of clerk candidacy) occurred, its in the public interest to ensure there are no shenanigans and the integrity of the vote is maintained, he told a reporter.
I know Carmella has a stellar history, but her behavior is so erratic in this (clerk election) regard, it gives me reason for concern.
Murray emphasized he has requested state oversight of the elections as a resident and voter not in his other community involvement. He also said he sent the letter to Lansing of his own volition, without pressure or political involvement of others.
I have not spoken to anyone regarding this, he said.
Asked to comment on Murrays request, Sabaugh replied: I think weve had stellar elections. The process has been very transparent.
If the Secretary of State feels theres any merit, then shell handle it. If the state called me, I would not have a problem at all discussing it, Macombs top elections official said.
Ive been doing elections for a long time, never had a problem. I dont know where hes coming from, she added.
Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams confirmed Wednesday the department has received Murrays letter and is reviewing it.
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, Woodhams said.
It is not uncommon that Bureau of Election staff visit multiple communities on Election Day to provide assistance to local election officials.
In addition to Miller, the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the Aug. 2 runoff are Warren City Clerk Paul Wojno and Denise Doherty, a former employee of the Macomb County Clerk/Register of Deeds office. The contest arguably will be the most closely watched race by local political observers
Wojno entered the election fray on the final day for individuals in all elections to formally file as candidates.
The Republican ballot for clerk includes Sylvia Grot, the wife of Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot, and Debera Guenther, Karen Spranger and Julie Ann Williams.
The respective partisan winners will face off in the Nov. 8 election for a 4-year term. The job has an annual salary of $108,000.

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