'I'm clean': Indicted Michigan lawmaker returns to House after opioid addiction treatment

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News

Lansing — Indicted state Rep. Larry Inman returned to work Tuesday less than a week after colleagues formally urged him to resign, saying he has finished treatment for an opioid addiction and hopes to complete his full two-year term.

The Traverse City-area Republican is accused of attempting to sell his vote on a controversial construction worker wage repeal initiative to a union group. He is facing federal bribery and extortion charges.

State Rep. Larry Inman talks to reporters in the Michigan House on Sept. 3, 2019.

“In my mind, I did nothing wrong,” Inman told reporters after his first House session since the indictment was announced in mid-May. “What we need to do is go through the legal process to make the final determination.”

Inman declined to discuss specifics of the ongoing criminal case but spoke openly about his opioid addiction, which his attorney has said could be used to argue a cognitive impairment defense.

The third-term lawmaker said he got addicted to painkillers after undergoing five separate surgeries in 2017 and 2018. Following his indictment, Inman said he went through five weeks of detoxification and six weeks of in-patient treatment that he said saved his life.

“I’m grateful to be alive, grateful that I met the forensic doctor, grateful that I got my head clear, and I’m clean and ready to go,” he said, suggesting he will use his personal experience to advocate for related legislation.  

“It’s time for this Legislature to be compassionate and understanding of people that have gone through an addiction and recovery.”

Inman’s return came five days after the House voted 98-8 for a resolution urging him to resign and warning of possible expulsion if he did not do so.

Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield of Levering and Democratic Minority Leader Christine Greig of Farmington Hills introduced the legislation in June but delayed action when Inman sought treatment.

Inman’s alleged attempt to sell his vote on the prevailing wage initiative drew “ridicule and disgrace” to the House, “shaking the public trust and confidence in this legislative body, staining the honor, dignity and integrity of the House, and distracting from the serious policy issues and debates before this body,” the resolution said.

The indictment prompted House leadership to strip Inman of his committee assignments and take over his Lansing office, to which he no longer has access.

Instead, the House Business Office is running Inman’s office services and his former staff continues fielding inquiries from constituents in his district, said House GOP spokesman Gideon D’Assandro.

Inman said he hopes Chatfield will reconsider the decision, but D’Assandro reiterated the speaker’s position and pointed back to last week’s resolution.

“Hoping that Rep. Inman does the right thing and steps down,” D’Assandro said. “It’s the right thing for the people he represents, the people of Michigan and the House of Representatives as a whole."

Inman spoke to a few colleagues in passing but sat alone at his desk for most of Tuesday's session in the House, where members earn a base salary of $71,685.

“We’ve been paying him over 200 bucks a day this whole time, so I guess he probably should be working if we’re going to pay him,” said Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain. 

“But at the same time, he needs to resign.”

The federal case against Inman is based on a series of text messages he sent officials with the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights leading up to the prevailing wage repeal vote. Unions opposed the initiative, but he ended up voting for it.

“We only have 12, people to block it,” Inman said in one text disclosed in the criminal case. “You said all 12 will get $30,000 each to help there (sic) campaigns. That did not happen, we will get a ton of pressure on this vote.”

Asked Tuesday if he was part of a larger group of lawmakers who sought contributions for their votes, Inman said “no." As for his other texts describing a “dirty dozen,” Inman suggested ignorance.

 “You got me,” he said. “I don’t recall doing that.”

U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker is considering Inman’s request to toss bribery and extortion charges on jurisdictional grounds. But he declined to dismiss a third charge against Inman for allegedly lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

Traverse City residents are organizing a recall campaign against him, but Inman said residents he’s run into around town have generally been supportive.

While legislating will be difficult without staff, Inman said he is hoping to partner with outside groups and organizations looking to fight opioid addiction and improve state services.

“It just like any other illness,” he said. “We need groundbreaking legislation … to assist people with addiction recovery and to make sure when they come back to their employment, they come back with open arms and their job is waiting for them.”