House creates committee to investigate Courser, Gamrat

Chad Livengood, and Melissa Nann Burke

Lansing — The Michigan House of Representatives passed a resolution late Wednesday to create a select committee to investigate state Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.

The move potentially could result in discipline if officials find they misused taxpayer resources to conceal an office romance.

State Reps. Todd Courser of Lapeer and Cindy Gamrat of Plainwell.

The House took a voice vote late Wednesday night on a resolution to form the committee, which could be used as a step toward expelling Courser and Gamrat from the House. The committee will determine Courser’s and Gamrat’s “fitness to continue holding the high office to which they were elected,” according to the resolution.

“It was done in an effort to keep options open,” said House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant. “... This is something that ... we’re giving a lot of thought to. This is very serious. I do not take it lightly at all.”

The House Business Office has been investigating whether Courser and Gamrat improperly mixed a romantic relationship with operations of their combined state House of Representatives office.

Cotter ordered the investigation on Aug. 7 hours after The Detroit News first reported on Courser’s failed scheme to conceal his relationship with Gamrat by distributing a fictional email story claiming he was caught having sex with a male prostitute behind a Lansing nightclub.

The House voted on the resolution with Courser on the floor. He declined to comment. Gamrat was not present.

No members have been appointed to the special committee and it may not meet, depending on the outcome of the investigation. Courser and Gamrat also are facing multiple calls to resign from office.

“It could be used for further investigative purposes,” Cotter said.

House Resolution 129 gives the special committee wide-ranging powers to “subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, and examine the books, records, and tapes of any person, partnership, association, or corporation, public or private, involved in the matter.”

Cotter said the committee was formed Wednesday, in part, because the House will not be in session again until Sept. 9. The House adjourned Wednesday after failing to get a deal on a $1.2 billion road funding package.

Meanwhile, Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette would not say Wednesday if his office is involved in a criminal investigation of whether Courser and Gamrat used taxpayer resources for personal and political purposes.

Courser, R-Lapeer, and top Democrats have separately called for Schuette to lead an investigation that is independent of the House Business Office’s probe.

“As the chief law enforcement officer, I can’t comment today at any length about that issue,” Schuette said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters announcing his endorsement of Jeb Bush for president.

“I can say this: I view this whole thing with great sadness, in terms of the families and children involved. It’s tragic,” Schuette added. “Just think how difficult that must be, on their families and their homes and their daily lives. I view that with great sadness. Beyond that today, I really can’t comment. Maybe in the future but not today.”

The Michigan State Police has an active investigation “involving Rep. Courser” after he visited the agency’s Lapeer post Friday, spokeswoman Shanon Banner said.

But the state police and Attorney General’s Office have been tight-lipped about whether they’re investigating Courser’s attempt to order a House employee to distribute a fictional story about Courser being a drug, alcohol and pornography-addicted “bisexual monster.”

Schuette spokeswoman Andrea Bitely reiterated Wednesday that the office has no comment on whether it is involved in the state police investigation.

“We generally do not confirm or deny any investigations by the Attorney General’s office,” Bitely said in an email.

The News reported Aug. 7 that then-Courser aide Ben Graham made a recording of his boss on May 19 plotting to send the phony email to create a “controlled burn” diversion of public attention to forthcoming revelations of Courser’s relationship with Gamrat.

Graham refused to send the email and was fired in early July without explanation. Courser has admitted to sending the email, but claimed the missive was meant to “misdirect attention” and “expose” someone anonymously sending him and Gamrat text messages threatening to expose their relationship if they didn’t resign.

Josh Cline, another former Courser and Gamrat aide, has claimed the two representatives entwined House employees in their relationship as they would “routinely disappear for hours at a time” and make the staff stay late until they returned to the office.

Courser and Gamrat are both married with children and have publicly apologized for their actions.

Tim Bowlin, head of the House Business Office, also declined to comment Wednesday on whether the state police or Attorney General’s Office have contacted him regarding his internal investigation of whether Courser and Gamrat broke any House rules.

“(I) cannot speak to this issue at this time,” Bowlin said in an email.

Gamrat maintained a low profile in the House Wednesday after her requests Tuesday to apologize in person to the Republican and Democratic caucuses were rebuffed by Cotter and Minority Leader Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills, respectively.

During a press conference Friday, Gamrat initially said she had been to the State Police and “turned over to state authorities” text messages that she received. But Gamrat’s spokesman later clarified she only gave the phone number of the harassing texter to the House sergeant-at-arms.