State police investigating Marino after lawmaker alleges 'volatile relationship'

Craig Mauger Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — The Michigan State Police is investigating a complaint involving Republican Rep. Steve Marino, an agency spokeswoman said Wednesday, as a Democratic colleague suggested he levied threats against her.

Rep. Mari Manoogian, a Democrat from Birmingham, indicated in a Wednesday statement that she had a "volatile relationship" with Marino of Harrison Township in neighboring Macomb County and "threats" led to his removal as chairman of the House Commerce and Tourism Committee.

"I can confirm that we received a complaint late yesterday that we are looking into," said Shanon Banner, a spokeswoman for MSP. "Because it is ongoing and in the very early stages, we will not be providing further comment."

The statement by Manoogian of Oakland County came a day after House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, removed Marino from his committee assignments. House leadership initially remained quiet about the reason for the unusual disciplinary action. The situation changed Wednesday afternoon when Manoogian issued a press release, and Wentworth said a Michigan State Police investigation is occurring.

State Rep. Steve Marino, R-Harrison Township, was removed from his committee assignments after state Rep. Mari Manoogian, D-Birmingham, accused him of sending threatening text messages.

"The unfortunate reality is that many people in our society have experienced domestic abuse, which often comes from someone we would never expect," Manoogian said. "None of us are immune to a volatile relationship, regardless of our career.

"It can happen right here in our Legislature, where abuse of power and threats to ruin a colleague's reputation, as well as threats of public shaming, can be used to intimidate fellow members of the Legislature."

Marino has not responded to requests for comment about the situation. Manoogian had served on the Commerce and Tourism Committee with Marino, a 31-year-old lawmaker in his third and final term.

Manoogian, a 29-year-old legislator who is in her second term, asked for privacy as she takes "steps to ensure my safety" and continues to represent her district.

Wentworth issued his own statement Wednesday, saying he will always "prioritize the safety of state legislators and those who are serving their community at the state Capitol."

"The House will continue to assist with the Michigan State Police investigation, take every precaution to ensure Rep. Manoogian's safety and ultimately allow the legal process to play out," he said. "We will be able to provide further updates at the appropriate time.”

Michigan State Rep. Mari Manoogian, D-Birmingham

Marino is no longer the chairman for the House Commerce and Tourism Committee nor is he serving on the Local Government and Municipal Finance Committee.  Rep. Pauline Wendzel, R-Watervliet, replaced Marino as chairwoman of the Commerce and Tourism Committee. 

House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township, said she stands by Manoogian and her request for privacy.

"Our caucus is acutely aware of the challenges that come with being a female elected official and will not tolerate any threats of abuse, retribution and public embarrassment that are used to intimidate women," Lasinski said.

Marino is a former Macomb County commissioner and was elected to the state House in 2016.

Other recent lawmakers who lost committee assignments include Rep. Cynthia Johnson, D-Detroit, and Rep. Gary Eisen, R-St. Clair Township, who both were removed for controversial comments they made after the 2020 election. 

Former Republican Rep. Larry Inman of Williamsburg was removed from his assignments after he was charged with extortion and bribery. In December 2019, a federal jury in Grand Rapids found Inman not guilty of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and couldn't reach unanimous verdicts on charges of attempted extortion and solicitation of a bribe.