Gamrat sues House, husband, others in federal court

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — A former Republican lawmaker who was ousted in September 2015 in a political scandal is suing the state House of Representatives, ex-House Speaker Kevin Cotter, former aides and her husband in federal court.

Former state Rep. Cindy Gamrat of Plainwell alleges in the lawsuit — filed in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids — a conspiratorial web of wiretapping, stalking and attempted defamation by high-ranking political officials and her husband, Joe Gamrat, among others implicated in the 38-page lawsuit.

The complaint alleges that Joe Gamrat began conducting clandestine surveillance and collecting material from Cindy’s campaign headquarters, bedroom, car and purse through a wiretap and other devices. Cindy and Joe Gamrat are getting a divorce, court records show.

Grand Rapids attorney Tyler Osburn is representing Gamrat in the suit and filed the amended complaint after a previous lawsuit in which Gamrat represented herself against some of the lawsuit’s defendants. That first suit was dismissed.

The complaint also alleges that three of Gamrat’s former aides – Keith Allard, Benjamin Graham and Joshua Cline – were communicating with Joe Gamrat without her knowledge while Joe and two others “had been secretly conducting wiretapping in Gamrat’s state office, hotel rooms, her car, and her purse by placing secret wiretapping devices in these locations during 2015.”

Osburn wrote in the complaint that Joe and others “were also secretly monitoring Gamrat’s phone calls and voicemails, as well as downloading her inbound and outbound emails and texts.”

“Joe Gamrat then began to forward this information both directly and anonymously to people who knew Gamrat, including her friends, her pastor, and her colleagues in the House,” and was also “providing updates” to Cotter, the suit alleges.

“Defendants illegally, maliciously, and wrongfully conspired with one another with the intent to and for the illegal purpose of committing the tortious actions described above,” Osburn wrote.

Gamrat was expelled by fellow House members an hour after former Rep. Todd Courser, a Lapeer-area Republican, resigned after being accused of misconduct in office related to the attempted cover-up of their extramarital affair. Gamrat and Courser were accused of misusing taxpayer resources, such as their staff, related to the cover-up attempt.

Besides the House, Joe Gamrat, Cotter, Allard, Graham and Cline, the suit names as defendants House Business Office director Tim Bowlin, Cotter’s chief of staff Brock Swartzle, former Republican state Rep. Ed McBroom, Michigan Public Service Commission member Norm Saari and three others.

Gamrat’s lawsuit argues that her “procedural due process” was violated during an investigation into the two lawmakers’ alleged misconduct in office, her contract was breached, and she was maliciously prosecuted as political leaders abused the investigative process to defame and oust her.

On Aug. 7, 2015, The Detroit News published a story and audio recordings from May 2015 in which Courser asked an aide to distribute by email a false rumor that Courser had sex with a male prostitute behind a Lansing nightclub.

Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, requested a House Business Office investigation that subsequently found “deceptive, deceitful and outright dishonest conduct” by Courser and Gamrat that included misuse of public office for personal, business and political gain. Courser resigned his office early in the morning of Sept. 11, 2015, about an hour before the Michigan House voted 91-12 to oust Gamrat.

The complaint requests compensation for damages and lost earnings Gamrat would have received had she not been expelled from the House. Gamrat also seeks damages for “her mental anguish and emotional distress, embarassment and humiliation, and damage to her professional reputation as a result of Defendants’ actions,” Osburn wrote.

Gary Gordon and Jason T. Hanselman from Dykema Gossett PLLC are listed on the complaint as attorneys for the state House, McBroom and Bowlin.

Gordon and Sarah Riley Howard, a Grand Rapids attorney representing Allard and Graham, did not immediately return a call from The News Monday afternoon.