House leaders prepare to release Courser-Gamrat report
Lansing — The scope of alleged misconduct by state Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat could soon become clear when Michigan House of Representatives officials release evidence that may be used to expel the freshman lawmakers from office.
House Speaker Kevin Cotter and the chamber’s business office plan to release a report detailing how Courser and Gamrat misused taxpayer resources in an unusual shared office, while carrying on a Capitol romance.
Cotter’s office hopes to release the report Friday, but it could be Monday because of the large volume of documents House attorneys are assembling, spokesman Gideon D’Assandro said. “We want them to take as long as it takes them to do it right,” he said Thursday.
House Business Office director Tim Bowlin said earlier this week he has uncovered evidence of “misconduct and the misuse of taxpayer resources by both” Republicans Courser of Lapeer and Gamrat of Plainwell. A private law firm has been reviewing Bowlin’s findings.
The House probe was sparked by an Aug. 7 Detroit News report on audio recordings revealing Courser plotted the distribution of an email to fellow Republicans in late May claiming he had been caught having sex with a male prostitute behind a Lansing nightclub.
An audio recording of a May 19 meeting between Courser and former aide Ben Graham revealed Courser wanted the email sent to create the appearance of a smear campaign against him and Gamrat should revelations of their Capitol romance be revealed.
Courser has admitted to sending the email, while Gamrat has denied any involvement in writing and sending the letter. But Courser said in the May 19 recording that Gamrat approved of the scheme.
Graham refused to send the May 20 and 21 anonymous emails and Courser fired him on July 7. Gamrat fired her top aide, Keith Allard, the same day without explanation. Allard and Graham have said they internally opposed the relationship between their bosses.
In preparation for the report’s release, the House has created a committee that could initiate expulsion proceedings against Courser and Gamrat as early as next week. The House has expelled only two members in the state’s 178-year history, while the Senate has expelled one for misconduct.
Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, has not yet appointed any of the four Republicans and two Democrats to the panel, which is officially called the “Select Committee to Examine the Qualifications of Representatives Cindy Gamrat and Todd Courser.”
“We’ve not made any final decisions, but are taking steps to keep all of our options open,” D’Assandro said.
The report is expected to include a summary of Courser and Gamrat’s misconduct and misuse of taxpayer resources with supporting evidence, such as emails and transcripts of audio recordings, he said.
Graham and Allard turned over to Bowlin four recordings of meetings they held with Courser and Gamrat. Three were held in House offices and portions of the recordings will be included in the evidence of misuse of taxpayer money through written transcripts, D’Assandro said.
Courser, an outspoken tea party conservative, has kept a low profile all week and hasn’t posted any commentary about the scandal on Facebook.
Gamrat on Wednesday personally hand delivered to fellow representatives a letter apologizing for her “personal indiscretion” with Courser.
The News obtained a copy of the letter from Gamrat that was dated Aug. 18 — the day House Republican and Democratic leaders declined Gamrat’s request to personally apologize to lawmakers about the scandal surrounding her and Courser.
“I would like to give you my sincere apology for any negative attention my personal indiscretion has brought to the House of Representatives,” Gamrat wrote. “My family has been dealing with this matter privately, and it was not my desire for it to become a public matter.”
Gamrat, also a tea party conservative, distributed the letter two days after the House Business Office said it has found evidence of misconduct and misuse of taxpayer resources by Gamrat and Courser.
Gamrat hired East Lansing attorney Andrew Abood and Justin Near of the Farmington Hills-based public relations firm Near Perfect Media to represent her.
Near told The News Thursday that he resigned from Gamrat’s team Wednesday after less than three weeks on the job.