No-show lawmaker honored with Michigan House resolution

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
State Rep. Bettie Cook Scott, D-Detroit

Lansing — The Michigan House this week adopted a glowing resolution praising term-limited Rep. Bettie Cook Scott, a Detroit Democrat who hasn’t shown up for her taxpayer-funded job since losing a Senate primary election in August.

Scott was again absent on Tuesday when the House adopted the resolution in a voice vote. It's a standard gesture to honor departing lawmakers, who are also each offered time to give a farewell speech on the floor.

“Her service and leadership in this legislative body will be missed,” reads the resolution for Cook, who has missed every House session held in the past four months.

The resolution notes Scott's prior service in the Detroit Police Department and as a teacher in Detroit Public Schools. It also touts her time in Lansing, saying she worked “tirelessly on behalf of the citizens of Detroit and Wayne County.”

“Representative Scott vigorously advocated for her constituents and the well-being of all Michiganders on numerous issues, including drinking water quality and women’s health.”

Gideon D’Assandro, a spokesman for House Speaker Tom Leonard, described adoption of the resolution as “a formality” that is done at the end of every two-year term for all outgoing legislators. He said the language was written well before the August primary.

Changing the resolution to “pour salt in her wounds would have taken more time from the House’s business than just doing it with the other resolutions and getting it over with,” D’Assandro said.

Leonard, R-DeWitt, last month directed the House Business Office to manage Scott’s staff and ensure someone is answering the phone for Detroit residents seeking help, an arrangement D’Assandro said is working well.

“The speaker has been pretty clear about what he thinks about her not showing up for work, and the steps he’s taken to provide services are obvious,” D’Assandro said.

Samantha Hart, a spokeswoman for House Democrats, said she was surprised the Republican majority took up the resolution in light of Scott’s attendance issues.

“As you know, this Republican Legislature does what they want with voice votes,” Hart said. “They were in the chair and running the agenda, so that had nothing to do with, as far as I know, a special request from anyone in the Democrats.”

Scott’s office began asking for excused absences in August and Democrats initially granted the request as a standard practice, Hart said. But it stopped several weeks ago “once we became aware that it didn’t seem like she was using that for a legitimate reason.”

Scott served in the state House from 2007 through 2010 and won election to a third and final term in 2016. She earns $71,685 a year and has continued to receive a paycheck every two weeks despite her prolonged absence.

“The speaker can’t unilaterally stop paying a member,” D’Assandro said. “The only way is to remove her from office through a formal process that would” not be completed by the end of the year, when she is already set to leave office.

A Fox 2 reporter followed Scott around last month and documented her running errands while her colleagues were at work in the Michigan Legislature.

Scott's phone number listed in campaign finance records for her House committee did not appear to be working Wednesday evening. A voicemail left with her campaign treasurer was not immediately returned.