House business office takes over offices for long-absent Detroit legislator

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
State Rep. Betty Cook Scott, D-Detroit

The Michigan House Business Office has taken over operations in the office of Rep. Betty Cook Scott, a Detroit Democrat who has largely been a no-show at the Capitol since her state Senate primary loss in August.

The Detroit Democrat has been excused from at least eight sessions since the Aug. 7 primary, according to House journal records.

The House Business Office, at the direction of Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard of DeWitt, will manage Cook Scott’s staff to ensure someone is available to answer the phone for Detroit residents seeking help, said Leonard’s spokesman Gideon D’Assandro. The office took over operations there nearly two weeks ago  

“Her absences since the primary are frustrating, because the people of Detroit deserve better,” D’Assandro said.

Cook Scott, who is term limited and will leave office at year's end, represents residents in part of eastern Detroit as well as Grosse Pointe Park, Grosse Pointe and Grosse Pointe Farms.

Cook Scott couldn't be reached for comment. On her Senate campaign website, she wrote on Sept. 23: "Thank you to all who helped me with my State Senate campaign.
I look forward to serving my constituents in the Second State House District for the remainder of this year."

Cook Scott has missed the most votes in the state House during the 2017-2018 session. She has skipped 197 votes since January 2017, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's

Only two other lawmakers have missed more votes so far during the two-year session, according to the Mackinac Center site: State Sens. Coleman Young II, D-Detroit, with 206 and Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, with 200. Young ran for Detroit mayor in 2017. Casperson told The Mining Journal in June that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. 

The last time the House Business Office took over the office of a representative who hadn't resigned from office was in August 2015, when then-Speaker Kevin Cotter of Mount Pleasant ordered the seizure of records from the office of Reps. Todd Courser of Lapeer and Cindy Gamrat of Plainwell.

Courser and Gamrat, Republican first-term lawmakers who shared an office, were investigated for improperly used taxpayer-funded resources to cover up their relationship. Courser ended up resigning while Gamrat was expelled in a House vote in September 2015.

Cook Scott lost the Democratic State Senate primary to Sen.-elect Stephanie Chang, a fellow Detroit representative who defeated five other competitors with nearly 50 percent of the vote. Cook Scott came under censure then because of making racial slurs against Chang, who is Asian American, outside of polling locations.

Allegations that Cook Scott is living outside her district, first reported by Fox 2 Detroit television station, are unlikely to be investigated or acted on, D’Assandro said, because it “would take more time than the House has left in its current term.”

“The voters solved this problem when they chose not to send her to the Senate,” he said.

Cook Scott’s reasons for her absences and her potential future attendance during the lame duck session are best addressed by the representative herself, said Samantha Hart, a spokeswoman for the House Democrats.

But, she said, “Michiganders expect their elected officials to show up to work. Period.”

Cook Scott's lawyer, William Noakes, was not immediately available Friday for comment.

(517) 371-3661