Senate investigation finds 'inappropriate' behavior by Lucido, who loses key post

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — A Michigan Senate investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Sen. Pete Lucido found the Shelby Township Republican's conduct to be "inappropriate workplace behavior" and cost him a powerful committee chairmanship.

The investigation by the Senate Business Office resulted in the removal of Lucido as chairman of the Advice and Consent Committee, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said Thursday, 50 days after a reporter first alleged Lucido made inappropriate comments to her.

On Friday, Lucido's office issued a statement: “Throughout this process, I have maintained that I did not sexually harass anyone. The Senate Business Office and its outside counsel were charged with investigating whether I did. After their comprehensive and impartial investigation, they determined that the allegations made against me could not be unequivocally substantiated. 

“Given that I have not sexually harassed anyone nor were there any citations of a violation of Senate rules determined by the investigation, I look forward to continuing to work on behalf of the people I represent.

“It is my honor and a privilege to serve the people of the 8th Senate District. I have always done my best for them, and I will continue to do so with the same level of hard work and service that they deserve from their public officials.”

The Advice and Consent Committee vets appointments made by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The Senate has blocked two of Whitmer's selections for the Michigan Natural Resources Commission.

State Sen Peter Lucido, R-36th District,  is sworn in.

"We place a high priority on ensuring the Senate is a safe work environment," said Shirkey, R-Clarklake, in a statement. "We endeavor to foster a culture where senators, staff, and members of the public feel comfortable and secure to interact with one another, free from inappropriate behavior."

But Lucido will remain chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, said Shirkey spokeswoman Amber McCann. He'll also have to participate in "additional training," according to the announcement Thursday.

Investigators concluded that none of the publicized complaints about Lucido could be "unequivocally substantiated," according to a memo on the investigation by the Senate Business Office. However, the investigators found accusers to be "credible" and concluded it was "more likely than not" that each incident occurred as reported by the accusers.

"Furthermore, the investigators concluded that Sen. Lucido's conduct 'demonstrates an unfortunate pattern of behavior' that requires 'little to no interpretation to be understood as inappropriate workplace behavior,'" the memo said.

The Senate Business Office's investigation into Lucido began in January after allegations made by Michigan Advance reporter Allison Donahue emerged on Jan. 15.

Donahue had approached Lucido for an interview at the Capitol in front of a group of high school boys when Lucido suggested the group of boys “could have a lot of fun” with her, Donahue said in a column on the incident.

After Donahue's story emerged, Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, and Melissa Osborn, a former lobbyist, made additional allegations against Lucido. McMorrow alleged Lucido once put his hand on her lower back and held it there.

“When I said that I had beaten my opponent, he just said, ‘I can see why,'" McMorrow said.

Lucido has previously couched his remarks to the reporter as a “misunderstanding” and categorically denied the allegation by McMorrow.

McMorrow said she was thankful for the investigation by the Senate Business Office and said investigators were fair. She called the results "validating" but wouldn't weigh in on whether Lucido's punishment was enough.

"I hope it does send a message that sexual harassment is not tolerated in a workplace," she said. "This is a workplace."

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, "stands behind Sen. McMorrow" and McMorrow speaks for the whole caucus on the matter, said Ananich spokeswoman Rosie Jones.

Donahue, the Michigan Advance reporter, called the investigation's findings "an important step for equality and respect in the workplace."

The Senate will launch a bipartisan work group composed of senators and staff to review its current policies and offer possible suggestions for improvement, Shirkey said on Thursday.

"Personally, I want to express my sincere appreciation to the individuals who participated in the investigation," the Senate leader said. "In the spirit of continuous improvement, their willingness to share their experiences has helped ensure a comprehensive and impartial process from which we will all benefit."