State Rep. Todd Courser ()Photo by DarKen Photography)
By Brandon Hall
(Email him at WestMiPolitics@Gmail.com)
State Rep. Todd Courser blasted the House Business Office report in an email Monday night.
Here are the highlights of the nearly 5,000 word piece:
>>>Read the full email below:
"My Initial Response to the House Report regarding alleged misconduct; and some ancillary background notes that people are asking me to comment on
Nothing in this post negates my own responsibility or culpability for my actions - in my faith, to my family, to my constituents, and to you the public at-large, but some questions need to be asked about the players involved and the motives behind their actions. Some of you have already made up your minds and do not need any more information in the events surrounding these issues, but some of you may be asking if there is more behind all of the stories - you will have to decide if there are more questions to ask. Many of you have asked me to comment on the findings of the report, but despite assurances that I would be able to review the findings, I have not been allowed to see any of the evidence now being alluded to in the media and that will soon be given to the committee. Given I have not been able to see the evidence against me, I can't really comment on it. I can only speak from what I know from the sanitized report that was just released and what I have heard in the media myself.
So it is a little confusing to read the abridged and doctored report that has been released - So if you water this all down, one thing that is striking to me, is that the report says I was apparently credible enough to "relieve these staffers of their employment," and apparently justified in letting them go, but the report says I am untrustworthy and deceitful in explaining why I let them go? So which is it? So apparently, per the report, my assessment was good enough to have them removed, but it is now their word that is trusted? There were many legitimate reasons for their removal, which this report refuses to disclose; these former employees were not asked to cover up anything; they are simply disgruntled former employees, who are "former" for very legitimate reasons.
Regarding these former staffers it is best to take the word of the current staffers who worked with these former disgruntled staffers their statements (if they are so willing) and mine should be released to the public so the public can just decide for themselves the voracity of the accusations that are being leveled by these former staffers.
Now what you do not find in the report today -
What has not been released, nor do I expect to see released, is any of the evidence that shows the truly egregious performance of these prior staffers over a long period of time, which has been attested to by other staffers. If it were released it would paint a much different picture than the one now being presented in the abridged report. The current staffers who witnessed the work performance of these 3 former staffers would be the best guide on whether or not they were removed, as has been portrayed, due to some cover up, or was it due to their egregious work performance. These current staffers witnessed the former staffers: their lack of attendance, their failure to come to the office, their habit of showing up late to work and leaving early, their refusal to complete tasks, their refusal to answer every phone call, their neglecting to inform me of invitations, their multiple failures in constituent follow up, their refusal to deliver tributes to ceremonies of a local business and Eagle Scout ceremony, their telling the constituent services in the house that I had no wish to develop activities for the district (I was unaware that these services were available to me), their refusal to complete projects with the schools, (one staffer left the office early to deliver a project to the local libraries, a project that should have gone out at least a month earlier, only to not deliver them and simply take them home and not say anything), a refusal to account for when or where they had been spending their time while employed and supposedly working as state employees and a refusal to discuss what they accomplished during the day. Nor do I expect to see released the testimony showing that these former staffers had pushed another female staffer to resign - removing her from the office. Also we are probably not going to see released is any mention of the now infamous scheduling failures which include sending me across the state to a meeting that had been canceled the week prior, in which my staffer told me he had confirmed the meeting the day before, and of course the release of information from the report will probably not show the pornographic cartoon made by one of these staffers during a staff meeting that was then left for female staffers to find. This will report will probably fail to disclose the electronic attendance in the state house of these employees, or better said their lack of attendance. The report will probably also leave out the fact that one former staffer had, a month prior to being let go from state employment, stolen the data from my databases, had my personal database put in his own name, and finally stolen the assembled data for the official House account - those items will probably be kept under wraps and out of sight, because it doesn't fit the narrative that is being sold about the motives of these former staffers. The information released will probably not show the times that my staff met secretly with the Speaker's Office, what were the details of those meetings and why were those meetings held without Human Resources, or myself, knowing or being involved in the meetings. Finally if the Speaker's office was so concerned to secretly meet with these staffers back as far as January, and continue to secretly meet with them throughout my term, then why was I not informed or warned about what they are now claiming as such egregious behavior. Incidentally, these staffers didn't note any of this in their exit interviews with Human Resources and their removal from state employment was approved by Human Resources and the Speaker's Office.
Is this an investigation? Or is it only offering evidence that fits a desired outcome?
In the following points, I will lay out some of the items that are being missed in the media and you can then make your own determination
First, I need to ask the question that I think is really important in this discussion. Am I being targeted as a form of political retribution? Only you can decide if that is the case. Given my Conservative record, in voting (one of the best voting records of any rep now or in the past - in both voting and sponsorships my record is among the very, very best in the legislature) and in sponsorships (I have actually sponsored more in my first half of my first term then either of the prior two reps from my district in the same time). Given my voting and my advocacy for conservatism are among the best in the legislature, maybe I shouldn't be surprised that I am singled out and put on the fast-track of expulsion. Quite honestly I am not surprised; I am pretty sure that there were nearly enough votes to expel me the day after I was sworn in.
Second, is this really now a political hit? Meaning is there a different standard being applied to me due to my lack of support for some of the leadership's progressive steps? Only two others in the history of the legislature have been expelled from the state legislature: one for felony embezzlement of 24k from a client; the second for multiple DUI's and allegations of spousal abuse. Does the evidence being provided against me rise to this standard or is another standard being applied here - if so why? Are there others who have violated the same rules, but who are far more connected politically, who are given a free pass? Think of the incidents of Bolger? Richardville? Banks? Smith? Scandal upon scandal, but no calls for expulsion? This all comes down to tapes made by disgruntled former staffers, possibly while working with the Speaker's Office, that show conversations about family and conversations concerning politics; yes the public treasury should be protected and any offense should be investigated, but it is my understanding that normally if there are conversations about family or politics on state property, then a warning is given and then if it continues then a fine is assessed by the Secretary of State - if that is the case then it is time to look at putting these accusations over to the Secretary and allowing that process to commence to determine what if any fine is appropriate - right now we are wasting the people's time and resources on something that would normally end up being an issue that would be handled by the Secretary of State. In this case, even though the Speaker knew, and was meeting with the staffers secretly, there were no warnings given and now they are pushing for an expulsion? Does the level of, even the alleged misconduct rise to expulsion? Why not a fine? Or censure? To me it is time to get back to taking care of the people's business on taxes, spending, the roads, and a whole host of other areas that need addressing - if there is a violation then there are already proper channels thru the Secretary of State to handle such accusations. Does this really rise to the level of forming a committee and doing a house investigation? Or is there another purpose in doing so?
Third, what standard is the leadership using to judge my fitness to hold office? What standard of "qualification" is being employed? And is it different in my current situation than in these other incidents of men who went along with the progressive establishment? Is every member being scrutinized and held to the same standards, or are there members right now who could have the exact same charges, whatever they are, brought against them?
Fourth, does the alleged misconduct arise to the level of expulsion? Or should there be a censure? Or should the people decide in either a recall effort or in the next election? You will have to decide from the evidence put forward, that which has been neatly combed through, picking out anything that fits their agenda and disregarding all evidence to support me, whether the evidence supports a call from the leadership for expulsion or is there another penalty more appropriate. The Speaker's office employs the staffers and places them in the representative's offices. The staff works for the Speaker. The Speaker met secretly with the staffers who were secretly taping me and allowed the release of these state employees to take place. The Speaker now handpicks the evidence to be presented to the handpicked committee to make the decision if I should be expelled - I will be given little to no ability to defend myself in the committee action or to present any evidence to counter any allegations. I was never informed of any wrongdoing from the Speaker - in regards to the now alleged conversations surrounding family matters or in regards to any political conversations.
Fifth, why have I not been allowed to see what I'm accused of? The investigation has been finished. Why aren't they going to disclose the entire investigation? What are they trying to doctor up in their findings? I have not been allowed to see the evidence, so I am going from what I have been told; do "these state house tapes," of conversations about family issues on state property + political conversations on state property = expulsion? I am waiting with the public on the full findings; I can only hope that all the other reps, who are delivering their political fundraising flyers throughout the house daily (oh, this is ok because their staffers are made to do it on their own time and it's a complimentary invitation for other reps asking for campaign donations), have followed the rules that I will be accused of.
Sixth, from what I have heard through the media, the tapes give an account of hours of meetings - albeit taped during the time when I am eating my lunch; noting conversations that are of a personal family nature and some focused on political conversations. Also the staffers knew they were creating the tapes so they were tailoring the conversations and their comments to fit their final objective. Normally, one would think a rep, new to the house, would be warned by the house business office or the Speaker's office, if such a wrongdoing was taking place. But in this case, the Speaker's office, even though they were in constant secret communication with the staffers, who were actively acting in the effort to set up and tape the conversations, gave no such warning, while the staffers continued to tape and record.
The removal of these staffers was approved by both the house business office and the Speaker's office, even though the Speaker's office was constantly meeting with the staffers from as far back as the beginning of the term. No allegations of misconduct were brought up to HR in their employment files or in their exit interviews.
What we know, but still have questions about - not sure anyone will even ask these questions or care to consider these parts, but here is a short list
1. 1. Was this really an attack on an activist legislator who was at odds with the leadership? (Look how I voted on issues on the Michigan Votes website) Many times I voted against my own party in favor of my constituent's wishes and had repeatedly challenged the progressive steps of leadership on both raising taxes and in every attempt to raise the spending of the state budget. Some have said I have not been effective as a legislator - well if you say effective is supporting more taxes, more spending and more progressive legislation, then you are right, but if you measure it by Conservative voting and sponsorships then I have been among the most effective anywhere.
2. Was this a case of a whistleblower or a political hit? Were these really innocent staffers trying to protect themselves or was there something more? Was there direction coming from the Speaker's office during these many months? Hours of tape, secret meetings by the taping staff members with the Speaker's office, no warnings provided to the new rep in regards to the alleged misuse of government resources - related to discussing family and political issues, no visits by the staffers to inform HR and nothing noted about these allegations of misconduct in their employment files or in their exit interviews? These staffers were not, as they are now claiming, forced to do non-governmental work on government time, they were not forced to do work for my law firm or campaign related work during their normal state employment - two of the former staffers operated a consulting business out of my law office, and they completed, off state time, work for me both for my business and politically; they kept their official business offices in my law firm and also operated other political campaign activities out of my facility. If these former staffers were doing political operations, for me or for other political figures, while on state time then it was a choice they were making and in no way was I aware of it, or forcing it, or in any way encouraging it. Many do not know that it is normal practice in Lansing for staffers to do outside political work by leaving the state office buildings and working on their lunches out of the state offices; these staffers did such activities both for me and for their own political operations for other clients and issues, while they were on state employment.
3. Why hasn't the Speaker's office given us a full account of which of my former staffers they had met with and when? We know the Speaker's office is directing the investigation, but can they investigate their own conduct or misconduct of the issues related to the investigation? Did the office handle the issues as prescribed in official procedures or was their effort a form of political retribution? We know the Speaker's office has not released the evidence and has not allowed me to see the evidence against me, but has repeatedly alleged misconduct in the media. Does the report show the failures in the handling of the process by the Speaker's office?
4. Why the rush to judgment - We also know that there is a police investigation into the alleged extortion/wiretapping by the anonymous texter, which has not concluded. It is being reported that a phone was purchased in the name of "Todd Courser," and a Post Office box in Detroit was used that was registered to a deceased person; shouldn't there be time to allow the investigation into whether or not there has been an attempt to extort me and doesn't this matter in the scope of any action to discipline me?
5. Is this fair arbitration of process or is this really a kangaroo court? I'm not sure if the process through this committee is intended to bring out the truth, or is a gripe session by former staffers who were let go, and whether the whole exercise is put in motion, not to get to the truth, but rather to get to a predetermined ending. We know, due to a voice vote being used, that the committee has been formed without subpoena power. 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. How is this fair when people are not allowed to defend themselves and not allowed to see the evidence against them?
6. Has a thorough investigation of the tapings been done? I have heard hours of tapes have been provided noting a definite effort by the staffers and we know the staffers were in constant contact with the Speaker's office - were these the only tapes? Do the staffers hold more? Does the Speaker's office hold more? And who owns the tapes? Were they made in the course of the staffer's employment at the Speaker's direction? Are these tapes authenticated? And are these tapes already released and those not released state property? Has the investigation asked to have the original device to confirm that the tapes have not been altered? Has there been a determination of whether these tapes are state property made while being an employee?
7. Much has been made of the fact that the now fabled email was sent in some way using state resources - it was not. There is no way to say anything to justify sending it or making it; I will suffice it to say, I can't really explain it away in any real way, but to say looking back it was a terrible choice made in some really trying circumstances and I am surprised even at myself in those moments. You may believe that there was an extortionist who was wiretapping, or not, but until you have that sort of pressure being applied in your life with confirmations about their access to your private info, and that they are going to bring that info out in the next moments, you're not sure who it is our what they have or how they are connected, either to the leadership or to your own staff - not even knowing what info they have or don't have, you can't really say what you would do or not do. I have no words to justify my actions in those moments, but to say it was done in a really trying moment; under some difficult personal issues and with an incredible amount of personal stress, you can assign whatever motive you feel is appropriate to it - but it was and is a tremendous personal failure on my part.
To me the reason the extortion issue is important is because if this is the type of pressure that is and can be asserted in the background to require a rep to resign, then it can to a much lesser degree be applied to force a vote in a direction, or force a pledge of support, in a critical moment for anything that those who hold such power desire - if knowledge about a person or their family is known that would destroy the rep or their loved ones then it can turn into undue influence on the whole representative process. People always ask me, "Why do people turn to being progressive champions once elected?" Well, don't wonder "why" anymore, because this is why.
That night when the now infamous tape was made, the meeting was off state time, off state property, and at a location that the staffer used as a contractor for his consulting business. He had worked out of that location for several years as a political consultant both for myself and for other candidates. He had been in the office literally hundreds of times in his role as a consultant both for me and for other clients, even sleeping in the office overnight on consulting projects. He used my computers for his business. This is the location where he kept his computer equipment and also where he registered his office was for his business. He had never come to that office as a staffer employed by the state - his contention that he came that night as a state employee isn't supported by the facts from the prior 3 plus years and hundreds of stop ins as a political consultant.
8. The release of the partial report notes the use of a database called Nationbuilder - this database was set up to help administer the intake of constituent issues and is completely separate from my political database. It is a database to organize and assemble constituent issues related to the official office operation and to my knowledge is entirely separate from the political campaign database. I have personally paid the cost of the database and it has cost the taxpayers nothing for its use - the database along with a series of excel spreadsheets and other software tools were used to create an organized framework for the administration of the office.
In closing I want to again thank all of you who have continued to pray for myself and my family. I really can't thank you enough for your prayers. They have meant the world to us. God bless each of you!
A confession of sorts - There has been mention of some odd parts that just don't make sense to people - me missing some of my committee meetings, wondering what was going through my mind the night of the now fabled email, and my lying down on the floor during a staff meeting. There are a few more incidents that appear odd if added into this conversation - sitting down in the hallway outside the committee hearing room and my lying down up in the corner of the gallery during a long session - they are all somewhat connected.
I have avoided sharing this even as I am working through it. It is not something someone would normally share in a political life, but it is probably time. I have a heart condition, for which I am seeing a cardiologist, it that allows me to maintain my blood pressure, even as my heart rate drops off in a moment by half or more and causes a feeling that I am in cardiac arrest, even as I appear to be functioning normally to everyone around me; this can last a few minutes or a couple of hours. In these moments, I will normally just find a spot to lie down until it passes, but sometimes that just has not been possible. It is something that has been with me for a long time.
This is what was happening during some of my missed committee meetings, also the now fabled night of the email, and the incident now recalled by a former staffer during his press conference.
I am not sure if the number of committees I have missed is more than other reps, I doubt it is, but someone can check that part out and I am sure they will. I know my missed votes are very low in total, both for committees and more importantly in the legislative sessions; I don't think I have missed any votes on the floor due to this or any other reason.
By Brandon Hall (Email him at WestMiPolitics@Gmail.com)
AT&T Michigan President Jim Murray is no fan of embattled State Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat, but he took to Twitter this afternoon to comment on the House Business Office's much hyped report regarding the pair-he doesn't think there's any smoking gun warranting their removal.
"I don't see anything in the report that warrants expulsion," Murray said. "Plenty of punishment options open to the House."
What was originally nearly a 100 page report from the House Business Office according to sources was released with apparently less than half that amount of pages this afternoon. Only about 12 pages discuss the investigation, 28 pages are just a rehash of House rules.
Michigan Restaurant Association leader Brian DeBano described the report as "very flimsy."
No testimony was attached, no audio provided, not a drop of evidence given-nothing. Documents, interviews, computer and phone records and other things are mentioned, but not a single item is provided. Wasn't that why we had to wait over a week for the report to go public, so it could be "sanitized," so the public could see evidence without compromising the privacy of constituents or House employees?
The report also appears to contradict itself and the facts of the situation.
In one part of the report, it says that "Speaker Cotter had no knowledge of work related issues concerning Keith Allard or Ben Graham prior to their termination." It continues: "Furthermore, Speaker Cotter had no knowledge of misuse of state resources by anyone in Rep. Courser or Rep. Gamrat's office prior to the article by the Detroit News August 7, 2015."
However, sources have told WMP since early July that the Speaker has known since around May 22nd that Courser wrote the false flag email and tried to get staff to send it, as well as other problems in the office that may have involved misuse of state resources. Cotter, through Chief of Staff Norm Saari, was even provided evidence of the claims. No action was taken. It is now that exact email that is the primary foundation of this report from the HBO.
Also, former staffer Josh Cline met with House Leadership in April to express concerns about the office and work environment-he says he was basically told to get lost. (Cline's name does not join Graham and Allard's at the beginning of the quote, interestingly enough...)
"During a news conference Monday, Cline, who resigned in the spring, said it became obvious soon after the lawmakers took office that they had a such a personal, intimate relationship that it created a hostile work environment and made working in the office "untenable"...
Cline quit the office in April and said the last straw was when he realized that they had cancelled or rescheduled more than half the meetings they set up. He said he brought his concerns about the relationship to members of the office of Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant. But said he "felt there was no relief forthcoming."
Even the report admits the Speaker's office dropped the ball and should have started an investigation much earlier: ""while (Cotter's Chief of Staff) may not have been given specific information or evidence to substantiate the employees concerns, there was reason in hindsight for the House to further inquire into the validity or depth of their claims"
"May not have?" Well, did he or didn't he?!
And "there was reason in hindsight for the House to further inquire into the validity or depth of their claims..." Ya think!?
Maybe there is strong evidence against Courser and Gamrat, but today's report was more of a "blue ball" than a Mileyesque "wrecking ball." The next step will be the House Select Committee conducting the investigation having their first meeting tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.
"Cotter appointed Rep. Ed McBroom of Dickinson County as chairman of the panel and Rep. Kurt Heise of Plymouth as vice chairman. He also appointed Republican Reps. Rob VerHeulen of Walker and Andrea LaFontaine of Columbus Township, and Democratic Reps. John Chirkun of Roseville and Frank Liberati of Allen Park."
"The Grand Haven Department of Public Safety received warning about a vehicle doing donuts on a baseball diamond and then the driver proceeding to smash the car with a baseball bat. When officers located the car the driver failed to stop, and thus began in a low speed chase around both the East and West side of Grand Haven. With aid from the Ottawa Country Sheriffs Department effectively deploying Stop Sticks on Seventh and Cutler the chase came to an end at the Lake Avenue Cemetery Parking lot. No injuries occurred."
Earlier this year, WMP broke the news that Matthew Krueger was the suspected perpetrator of the attack on the Coast Guard office in Grand Haven.
By Brandon Hall (Email him at WestMiPolitics@Gmail.com)
A source close to the situation tells West Michigan Politics that State Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat met at parking lots across the state for "hookup sessions" for months, sometimes while on the clock. A photo obtained by WMP shows Courser giving Gamrat a foot rub during one of those meetings.
The source says they would meet at parking lots across Michigan, usually strip malls or fast food restaurants. Some of the hookup sessions were evidently during work hours.
The source also says the affair continued up until August, a week before the Detroit News blew the story wide open. That runs contrary to the narrative promulgated by Courser and Gamrat, who said the affair ended in Mid/Late May...Gamrat had said at her press conference a few weeks ago she has been in marriage counseling for many months.
The photos show Courser and Gamrat's vehicles parked next to each other at a Lansing strip mall in one, with Courser giving Gamrat a foot-rub in the other. The person who took the photos is believed to be Gamrat's husband, Joe Gamrat. The photos were taken around June 25th and are considered PG given other documentation that exists.