Macomb County clerk candidate says turmoil is behind her

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By M.L. Elrick
FOX 2 Investigative Reporter

Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger plunged her office into turmoil residents are looking forward to some calm after the storm.

A judge removed Spranger for failing to live where she said she did and now FOX 2 investigative reporter ML Elrick reveals that one of candidates running to replace Spranger has had her own legal troubles.

Clashes with police, drunken driving, unpaid bills. That's probably not what Lisa Sinclair is referring to in her campaign commercial when she says: "I am tough enough to get the job done."

Sinclair says the turmoil that marked much of her adult life is a thing of the past.

"Lisa Sinclair, like Lake St. Clair, will bring a calm, healing quality back to the Macomb County Clerk's office," she said in a commercial.

If voters choose Sinclair over Democrat Fred Miller for Macomb County clerk and register of deeds, she says her top priority will be customer service.  She says her experience as an emergency room nurse in Detroit should help.

"The emergency department moves very fast," she said. "So you have to be able to respond quickly and prioritize. And I have people's lives in my hands every shift."

But public records suggest that Sinclair was not always so responsible. In 1997, while studying political science at Michigan State, Sinclair pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after clashing with police.

"My friends came from out of town, and I'm always trying to help people and get my friends' back and something happened," she said. "I have a strong personality and I spoke too loud and too strong and I regret that."

More than five years later, in 2003, Sinclair rear-ended a car stopped at a red light. Her blood alcohol level was .18 -- more than twice the legal limit.

"I made a horrible mistake," she said. "The good news is I did not hurt anyone."

Seven years later, in 2011, Sinclair pleaded guilty to attempted disorderly conduct. Marysville police say they found Sinclair "heavily intoxicated" after they were called to a gas station where she was berating her cab driver.

Police say she cursed at them and reported "while at the jail, Sinclair continued her loud and obnoxious behavior. She was defiant with corrections officers ..."

"I was going through a divorce at the time, the worst time in my life," she said. 

In fact, Sinclair had filed for divorce a year before that incident in Marysville, but it does appear the divorce was acrimonious.

ML Elrick: "He said that you left him with all the bills, that you took the animals, that you liquidated the IRA and kept all the money. He said that you were a control freak and you had one of your family pets put to sleep when he would have cared for that animal. Are those things true?"
Lisa Sinclair: "No."

Elrick: "Why would he say things like that?"
Sinclair: "I don't know."

Elrick tried contacting Sinclair's ex-husband, but was unsuccessful. 
Over the next three years, from 2011 to 2013, Sinclair was sued for rent and credit card bills.
She filed for bankruptcy in 2013, listing more than $380,000 in debts, including a mortgage, car notes, student loans and credit card bills.

 "I have a 100 percent record of paying all my bills," she said. "This is all related to my marriage. I have nothing to hide, but all these details you have in front of me, those were all part of my divorce."

Elrick's investigation did not turn up any bad debts since Sinclair shed many of her obligations in that 2013 bankruptcy.

Elrick did find something surprising for someone who says she has always had a passion for politics -- Sinclair has only voted five times over the past decade, missing more than a dozen opportunities to cast a ballot.

Elrick: "Are you concerned about what message that sends to people who you're going to encourage to vote that you yourself have not voted every time you could?"

"It goes back to the same thing," Sinclair said. "I've made some mistakes. I've missed some elections. 

Elrick: "You missed a lot of them, actually." 

Sinclair: "I have voted recently, because - "

Elrick: "You voted for yourself."
Sinclair: "I did come to that realization that it's not a solution to just sit home."  

That's good, because one of the clerk's top jobs is helping people vote. Sinclair acknowledges that the clerk's job is a "huge challenge," but she says she's matured and learned to handle criticism.
Sinclair: "I'm that person that has a desire, that wants to be there. I'm that person that sat and watched our former clerk get removed from office and I stepped up. 

"We just went over it here. We see the mistakes I've made. I've grown and I've become a very good person who cares about helping them. And the thing is, all those things that I've done, I've moved forward."

Elrick: "Can you promise the people of Macomb County that they won't have to deal with these sorts of problems if you're elected clerk? 

"Absolutely," she said. "I wouldn't be here if I couldn't."

Elrick put Democrat Fred Miller through the same public records checks as Sinclair and did not find any problems.

But Miller's opponent in the Democratic primary raised concerns about campaign spending that supported Miller - a complaint filed with the federal elections commission is pending.