News that former state reps Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat wouldface felony misconduct charges for their role in a scandal to cover up their extramarital affair drew reaction from Democrats and Republicans alike.
The charges were announced Friday by Attorney General Bill Schuette, whose office, along with Michigan State Police, led the investigation into the former Republican lawmakers who were forced from office in September.
Here’s a look at what some lawmakers and party officials had to say about the charges:
House Majority Leader spokesman Gideon D’Assandro
“I think it shows that we made the right decision removing them from office and giving the people of Michigan a chance to pick two representatives who would actually do their job and do it well.”
House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel
“When House Speaker Kevin Cotter and House Republicans tried to sweep Courser and Gamrat’s misconduct under the rug by expelling them from the House without a criminal investigation, House Democrats boldly insisted that the attorney general and the Michigan State Police investigate criminal wrongdoing as part of the expulsion. The results of their investigation prove that was the right move.”
Greimel’s statement then went on to address his push to extend Michigan’s open records laws to the governor’s office and the Legislature, both of which are currently exempt.
“We hope that all elected officials, including Speaker Cotter and Gov. Rick Snyder, will be held to the same high standard of transparency and accountability. That’s why we are calling for Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act to be extended to the Legislature and the governor’s office, so that we can finally eliminate Lansing’s culture of corruption, whether it causes the Courser/Gamrat scandal, the Flint water crisis or the neglect of veterans at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.”
Keith Allard and Ben Graham, former legislative staffers for Courser and Gamrat
Before we get to the statement, here’s a bit of background about Allard and Graham and how they fit into the scandal involving their former bosses.
Allard and Graham have sued the Michigan House, alleging they were wrongfully terminated by the House Business Office after sharing information with Speaker Kevin Cotter’s office about improper behavior by Courser and Gamrat.
Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, has said the lawsuit is “wholly without merit.”
“The House Business Office did not terminate their employment in July for any protected whistleblowing activity,” Cotter said in December, when the lawsuit was announced. “Instead, their supervisors instructed the office to terminate their employment because of poor job performance and because they were ‘not a good fit’. The office acted appropriately and legally.”
A report by the House Business Office said Graham and Allard “worked under very difficult and contrary conditions,” according to the report, which noted that they reached out to Cotter’s former Chief of Staff Norm Saari to voice concern with the combined office operation.
The affair between the Courser and Gamrat was made public in early August when Graham released audio recordings of Courser asking him to help send a bizarre email in which the lawmaker accused himself of having sex with a male prostitute and doing drugs, a “controlled burn” designed to discredit any revelations of his relationship with Gamrat.
Here’s the statement from the former aides:
“We feel validated by the charges announced today against our former employers, Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat. We have been trying for more than a year to bring the illegal and unethical actions of these two elected officials to light. We were fired and publicly humiliated for trying to do the right thing. Attorney General Schuette’s actions this morning underscore what we have been saying repeatedly: Todd and Cindy violated state law while they were in office and must be held accountable for their actions.”
Brandon Dillon, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party
“Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat may have gotten what they deserve for their disgraceful actions and blatant misuse of taxpayer resources, but Bill Schuette chose politics over justice when he decided to let Speaker Cotter and his senior staff get away with their attempt to cover up the scandal.”
Schuette, during Friday’s press conference, said he gives Cotter “high marks for how he’s conducted this whole activity,” adding that he has “high regard for the speaker.”
Dillon’s statement went on to say:
“Just like the House Republicans’ own so-called internal investigation was an effort to shield the Speaker and his top staff, the Attorney General has followed suit by ensuring that Cotter and his team avoid any criminal charges, even though it’s clear they were accomplices to this criminal behavior by not acting on information provided to them by courageous whistleblowing staffers. Instead of conducting a real investigation, Bill Schuette decided that protecting his Republican allies is more important than bringing the truth to light.”