Macomb Rep. Marino claims 'character assassination' after removal from panels

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

A Harrison Township Republican lawmaker accused of sending threatening messages to a fellow lawmaker with whom he had a relationship pushed back against the allegations in a statement Thursday. 

State Rep. Steve Marino said he regretted not disclosing his relationship with state Rep. Mari Manoogian, D-Birmingham, to House leadership, but he maintained their relationship ended "well over a year ago." 

State Rep. Steve Marino, R-Harrison Township, was removed from his committee assignments after state Rep. Mari Manoogian, D-Birmingham, accused him of sending threatening text messages.

"I will be clear: The insinuations made are nothing more than politically motivated character assassination that I am confident will conclude as a waste of the public's time," Marino said in a statement. "I look forward to fulfilling my duties and maintaining the trust I've worked so hard to build during my seven years in public office."

State police said Wednesday they are investigating allegations against Marino after Manoogian indicated in a statement  that she had a "volatile relationship" with Marino and that there were "threats of public shaming." Manoogian asked for privacy in her statement. 

"None of us are immune to a volatile relationship, regardless of our career," Manoogian said in a statement Thursday. "It can happen right here in our Legislature, where abuse of power and threats to ruin a colleague's reputation, as well as threats of public shaming, can be used to intimidate fellow members of the Legislature."

Manoogian, 29, had served on the Commerce and Tourism Committee with Marino, a 31-year-old lawmaker in his third and final term. 

Wentworth removed Marino from his chairmanship of the House Commerce and Tourism Committee Wednesday and from the Local Government and Municipal Finance Committee. Thursday's statement is the first public comment Marino has made on the situation.

Wentworth on Wednesday said the House would honor Manoogian's request for privacy as state police investigate the allegations.

“The House will continue to assist with the Michigan State Police investigation, take every precaution to ensure Rep. Manoogian's safety, and ultimately allow the legal process to play out," Wentworth said.