Democratic reps: Release full Courser-Gamrat report

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — The two Democratic members of a special House committee investigating embattled Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat are calling for the release of a full report of evidence that might be used to expel the freshmen Republican lawmakers.

But the panel’s top Republicans argued Thursday against the move.

“I think right now it would be too much of a distraction to have everybody and his brother looking at this thing,” said Rep. Kurt Heise, a Plymouth Republican, about releasing the report now.

Democratic Reps. John Chirkun, of Roseville, and Frank Liberati, of Allen Park, want the House Business Office’s full report and supporting evidence detailing misconduct and misuse of taxpayer resources released with limited removal of private constituent matters and family information.

“In a court of law, all the evidence is put forward so that when a verdict is reached, we can be confident that due process was followed and an informed decision was made,” Chirkun said in a statement. “This report needs to be made public for full review to ensure that standard is upheld.”

The House Business Office on Monday released a 40-page summary report detailing how Courser and Gamrat misused their offices, staff and taxpayer resources to “cover up an affair.” Most of the document comprised of House rules and a campaign finance law Courser and Gamrat allegedly broke.

Liberati and Chirkun said they sent a letter Thursday to Rep. Ed McBroom, the Dickinson County Republican who chairs the panel, requesting the full report be released before the select committee begins deliberating. Heise is the panel’s vice chairman.

Speaker Kevin Cotter’s office has said the full report and evidence will be released at the end of the special committee’s process, which could result in an expulsion, censure or no action taken against Courser and Gamrat.

“Everything will be available in a few days. We’re not talking about a long period of time,” McBroom said Thursday. “I’m just very disappointed in the politics that’s being played in what I see as the most serious institutional processes that should not be tangled up in politics whatsoever.”

The four Republicans and two Democrats on the Select Committee to Examine the Qualifications of Representatives Cindy Gamrat and Todd Courser have been given full copies of the report. The committee imposed a rule barring members from publicly disclosing “material deemed confidential by caucus counsel.”

The House Business Office last Friday denied a formal request from The Detroit News for access to the full report because the Legislature is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act public records law.

The committee has scheduled hearings Tuesday and Wednesday on the House Business Office’s investigation and whether Courser and Gamrat are fit to remain in office.

McBroom argued earlier this week that the committee members “are not a court,” but that Gamrat and Courser would be treated fairly.

Heise said the House’s attorney has told him the report would be released “when the committee work is done.” Whether the release of the report would come before or after a House floor vote on expelling Courser and Gamrat remains unclear.

The House Business Office’s investigation was sparked by an Aug. 7 Detroit News story about Courser’s attempt to cover up his relationship with Gamrat and the use of House staff and taxpayer resources in doing so.

“The first step in restoring faith in this tarnished body is to be honest,” Liberati said in a statement. “The effort of releasing the report will go a long way in beginning to restore the people’s trust.”

Chirkun and Liberati’s statements Thursday echoed earlier comments from Courser that the lack of access to the full report leaves him without the right to defend himself.

Courser, an attorney, called the committee “a kangaroo court” with “a predetermined ending.”

“We know in the committee as formed, that I, the accused representative, has no ability to bring evidence to defend myself or even to question the evidence or the witnesses being brought before me,” Courser wrote in a 4,100-word response to the report. “How is this fair when people are not allowed to defend themselves and not allowed to see the evidence against them?”

clivengood@detroitnews.com

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