Ex-Reps. Courser, Gamrat sue Mich. in U.S., state courts
Two former lawmakers ousted from the state House in 2015 have filed lawsuits against the Michigan House of Representatives, one in U.S. District Court and the other in the state Court of Claims.
Former state Rep. Cindy Gamrat, who now goes by Cindy Bauer, alleged that she was not treated fairly when representatives investigated and expelled her in September 2015 amid allegations of misuse of taxpayer resources.
Gamrat filed the lawsuit in the Court of Claims last week. A separate federal lawsuit Gamrat filed after the 2015 political scandal was dismissed earlier this year.
Her lawyer, Tyler Osburn, did not respond to a call and email seeking comment.
Former State Rep. Todd Courser’s filing in U.S. District Court last week also is not his first time suing the state over the 2015 scandal. Courser filed a similar lawsuit in 2017, but later voluntarily withdrew the suit, his lawyer Matthew DePerno said.
Courser in his filing last week alleges various violations of his constitutional and civil rights, and claims the primary recording lawmakers used to investigate Courser and Gamrat “is not authentic and has been edited and modified,” DePerno said.
“It appears that his recording is a patchwork of other recordings and we don’t know what’s authentic and what is true about it,” said DePerno, citing an expert witness hired by Courser.
Gamrat, a Plainwell Republican, was expelled by fellow House members an hour after Courser, a Lapeer-area Republican, resigned after being accused of misconduct in office related to the attempted cover-up of their extramarital affair. Gamrat and Courser were accused of misusing taxpayer resources, such as their staff, related to the cover-up attempt.
Both Gamrat and Courser allege their former aides Keith Allard and Benjamin Graham communicated with then-House Speaker Kevin Cotter and Bauer’s then-husband Joe Gamrat without their knowledge and gathered information to malign the lawmakers.
In their lawsuits, both Courser and Gamrat allege that the effort stemmed from their refusals in January 2015 when asked by Cotter to sign a “caucus pledge” promising to vote according to party.
During that same month, their aides began meeting with Cotter and his staff “in order to provide them with personally and professionally detrimental information regarding Bauer in an attempt to injure and erode her credibility and effectiveness as a state representative,” Gamrat's lawsuit said.
Allard and Graham also began communicating with Gamrat’s then-husband, Joe Gamrat, she alleged. The couple divorced in 2017.
Joe Gamrat monitored his wife’s phone calls, emails, texts and voicemails, Cindy Gamrat said, and he told Michigan State Police that he “placed recording devices in vehicles” driven by his wife and kept recording devices in the home they shared.
“Joe Gamrat would just request Courser’s emails from Allard, Graham, or Cline” and forward the information gathered to his wife’s friends, pastor and House leadership, Cindy Gamrat alleged in her lawsuit.
Courser alleges similar surveillance, writing in his lawsuit that House employees monitored his phone calls, emails, texts and voicemails “to forward this information both directly and anonymously to people who knew Courser.” He also alleges House employees stalked and photographed him and used “wiretapping and eavesdropping devices.”
The House, Cotter and other employees “directed Allard, Graham, and Cline to conduct this surveillance, including the illegal wiretaps,” Courser said in his lawsuit.
Gamrat and Courser both allege in their lawsuits that they began receiving “extortion texts” in May demanding that they resign. Some of the texts were later determined to be from Joe Gamrat, according to an MSP report referenced in Gamrat’s lawsuit.
Allard and Graham were fired in July after Courser and Gamrat made complaints to the House Business Office, but the pair continued to have unauthorized access to Gamrat and Courser's emails, the lawsuits said. Allard and Graham later received $170,000 each from the House in a settlement over their firings.
On Aug. 7, 2015, The Detroit News published a story and audio recordings from May 2015 in which Courser asked an aide to distribute by email a false rumor that Courser had sex with a male prostitute behind a Lansing nightclub, in hopes of diverting attention from his affair with Gamrat.
“Within hours of the article breaking, Cotter — having seemingly already been prepared — requested and directed (House Business Office Director Tim) Bowlin to ‘investigate’ and prepare a report on alleged misconduct,” the lawsuits said.
The report resulting from the investigation was largely based on the “unsworn testimony of Allard and Graham,” the lawsuits said.
Shortly after the report was released, in the early hours of Sept. 11, 2015, Courser resigned from the House and Gamrat was expelled, “after the representatives had been forced to remain in chambers for several hours without being able to leave for any reason, not even to use the bathroom or get a drink.”
Gamrat maintains the investigation and expulsion were “neither fair nor just” and is asking for back pay with interest, reimbursement of attorney fees and costs, and damages exceeding $25,000 for “mental anguish and emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation, and damage to her professional reputation.”
While Gamrat's latest suit only names the House as a defendant, Courser's includes several state House employees including Cotter and former state Rep. Ed McBroom.
Courser alleges variously constitutional and civil rights violations, wiretapping and eavesdropping violations, libel, slander, defamation, stalking, invasion of privacy and other violations. He is seeking damages of not less than $75,000 and attorney’s fees and costs.