By Brandon Hall
Printed for the first time below are every single blockbuster cover-up allegation from Keith Allard and Ben Graham against Speaker Of The House Kevin Cotter and his staff.
These charges, if true, are stunning and unacceptable. (The headline says 10, but technically their are 12 sections below.)
The lawsuit says that Cotter and his staff:
-Knew of serious issues as early as January...
-Attempted to obtain the non-existent "Courser/Gamrat Radisson Police Report" to try and block any public release of the document...
-Threatened House GOP staff with the loss of their jobs! if they talked about the "controlled burn" email in any way...
-Had continued knowledge, again and again and AGAIN from the Speaker and MULTIPLE people in his inner circle about a myriad of issues in the office...
-Cotter's top aides leaked the firing of Allard and Graham to the media...
-The House Business Office report was a cover up and didn't include many key documents implicating the Speaker and his staff in the scandal months before the timeline they claimed publicly...
-The lies from Gamrat/Courser Select Committee Chair Ed McBroom that Allard and Graham would "plead the 5th" despite never saying that.
-Cotter and his aides adamantly did not want Allard and Graham to testify. Any testimony could hurt their narrative and reveal facts and documents they were trying to conceal...
Here are excerpts below, in order as they appear in the lawsuit, without ranking by importance:
Cotter's Office Knows Of Affair And Work Issues In JANUARY:
"At various House employment orientation sessions for staff members
at the beginning of the 2015-16 term in January 2015, the House Business Office,
which runs the administrative affairs of the House, repeatedly reiterated to all staff
that any employment issues should be brought to the attention of either Norm
Saari, Brock Swartzle, or the House Business Office. In January 2015, Mr. Saari
was the chief of staff of the Speaker of the House, Rep. Kevin Cotter. Mr. Swartzle
was House Majority Counsel space, operations, and staff...
Sometime around the second week of January, Mr. Saari initiated a private meeting with Mr. Allard. In that meeting, Mr. Allard shared some concerns with the working environment in the office of Courser and Gamrat...It also quickly became clear to the staff that Gamrat and Courser – both of whom are married to other people – were engaging in an extramarital affair."
"around the second week of February, Mr. Allard initiated a meeting attended by him, Mr. Saari, Mr. Graham, and Josh Cline, the other Courser/Gamrat office staff member. At this meeting, Messrs. Allard, Graham and Cline specifically reported to Mr. Saari:
-that Courser and Gamrat were not working and were apparently not usually engaged with legislative business during normal work hours, and as a result, were forcing staff to work extensive hours on nights and weekends to make up for the lack of time Courser and Gamrat were putting in during actual work hours.
-that Courser and Gamrat asked them to send political emails during hours of state employment. Messrs. Allard, Graham and Cline reported to Mr. Saari that they did not condone using state resources for political purposes and did not wish to continue participating in those as a condition of their employment.
-that there were significant, difficult-to-ignore signs that Courser and Gamrat were having an extramarital affair, and that Cindy Gamrat’s husband had been sharing the same types of suspicions with the staff, which put the employees in an untenable position.
During this February meeting with Mr. Saari, House Speaker Cotter walked through Mr. Saari’s office.
After a brief introduction to Messrs. Allard, Graham and Cline, Mr. Saari shared with House Speaker Cotter some of the staff’s concerns, specifically the extra hours outside of regular business being required of them and the issues with emails and outside communications which violated the rules against using taxpayer resources, i.e., State equipment, office space, and staff, for political purposes. Speaker Cotter appeared genuinely concerned and asked Messrs. Allard, Graham, and Cline to continue to keep Mr. Saari abreast of any additional issues."
Cotter's Office AGAIN Told About Issues In March...
"When the situation did not improve, about a month later Mr. Allard went to Mr. Saari a third time for assistance, sometime in March 2015. In this meeting, Mr. Allard again told Mr. Saari in no uncertain terms that he felt that Courser and Gamrat were abusing taxpayer resources, including their staff. Mr. Allard implored Mr. Saari to consider finding other employment in the House for Messrs. Graham and Cline, whom Mr. Allard supervised. The meeting lasted for nearly an hour, and Mr. Saari seemed to share Mr. Allard’s concerns."
On at least two additional occasions, Mr. Allard briefly discussed the situation with Mr. Saari after meetings or in the Capitol during chance encounters. On each of those occasions, Mr. Allard reiterated that Courser’s and Gamrat’s demands of their staff were getting worse and more inappropriate, not better. "
Cotter's Staff Finds Out About Courser's involvement in False Flag email scandal within HOURS in May, does nothing:
"On the morning of May 21, 2015, Mr. Graham requested a meeting with Mr. Saari and specifically requested that Mr. Swartzle be in attendance. At Mr. Saari’s request, Mr. Graham met with them off state property at the GCSI lobbying firm. Mr. Graham detailed for Messrs. Saari and Swartzle all of the events of the night of May 19, 2015, when Courser asked him to send the infamous email designed to divert attention from the Courser/Gamrat affair, which Mr. Graham refused to send. Mr. Graham also confirmed for Messrs. Saari and Swartzle that it was true that Courser and Gamrat were having an illicit romantic affair, and said in no uncertain terms that he had “undeniable physical proof” of everything he was telling them. Mr. Saari asked Mr. Graham to “stick it out” in the short term and that they would work to find him other employment. "
Cotter's Staff Tells Allard+Graham To Stay While They Handled Things...
"Soon after his May 21 meeting with Mr. Saari, Mr. Graham sent a text message to Mr. Saari stating that Courser was retaliating against him for refusing to send the false “controlled burn” email and for opposing other abusive demands. Mr. Graham asked Mr. Saari if he had made any progress on finding Mr. Graham another position. Mr. Saari replied that he had not made progress but that he was working on it.
Although Mr. Graham was becoming increasingly weary of his working environment and told Mr. Saari that he was considering just quitting entirely, Mr. Saari encouraged Mr. Graham to stay “for the good of the district” until Mr. Saari could handle the situation."
Cotter's Team tries To Obtain Police Report To Prevent Media Release..
"In the meantime, other members of the staff of Speaker Cotter had information corroborating what Plaintiffs had told Messrs. Saari and Swartzle. Upon information and belief, Matt Golden, Speaker Cotter’s Deputy Chief of Staff, knew of the confrontation at the Lansing Radisson hotel between Cindy Gamrat and Courser, and Cindy Gamrat’s husband Joe, because he made efforts to obtain a copy of the police report relating to the confrontation. Indeed, this confrontation had been the talk of Lansing political circles. Upon information and belief, Golden made efforts to obtain a copy of any police report pertaining to the event in an attempt to prevent its release to the media."
"On the morning of May 26, 2015, a staff person with House Republicans approached Mr. Allard in a hallway and said that he knew Courser had sent the infamous “controlled burn” email. He said that numerous people in his division and within Speaker Cotter’s office had received it and that “Speaker Cotter’s office” was aware that Courser had sent it. This staff person told Mr. Allard that he had been directed by Mr. Golden that speaking about the email or its authorship would be considered a “fireable offense.”
Cotter's Aides Leak Graham/Allard Firing To Media...
"During the afternoon of July 6, 2015, following their termination, Plaintiffs requested a meeting with Messrs. Saari, Bowlin, and Swartzle. Mr. Swartzle was not present but called in via speakerphone. Now with Mr. Bowlin there as well, Plaintiffs reiterated the various reports of misuse of taxpayer resources and generally inappropriate and retaliatory behavior by Courser and Gamrat that they had brought to Messrs. Saari and Swartzle over the previous six months. Plaintiffs also brought up several other abuses of taxpayer resources that had occurred in the time since previous meetings with Messrs. Saari and Swartzle. Mr. Bowlin said that he had wished Plaintiffs had made him aware of these issues, but Plaintiffs reported that the House Business Office orientation and other training made it clear that any employment issues could be addressed with Messrs. Saari, Swartzle, or Bowlin. All parties to this meeting agreed that was part of the orientation.
Within two hours following this “exit interview” of Plaintiffs, two reporters from separate news services contacted Mr. Allard. Both reporters had intimate details of the exit interview, some of which had never been shared with anyone outside of those attending the exit interview. The reporters asked Mr. Allard to confirm for their reporting that he and Mr. Graham had been fired, and that the events described to them by sources speaking off-the-record had indeed occurred.
On or about July 8, 2015, Mr. Allard spoke to Mr. Bowlin on the telephone. Mr. Bowlin firmly denied having spoken to the media about what was discussed during the termination “exit interview,” but said he had received similar calls from members of the media, and said that he could not control what members of the Speaker’s office told the media. Mr. Bowlin also said that he was “very surprised” that no one from the Speaker’s office, i.e., Messrs. Saari or Swartzle, had made him aware of the issues that Plaintiffs had brought to members of the Speaker’s staff, given that Plaintiffs had informed the Speaker’s office on numerous occasions." After July 8, 2015, based on Mr. Allard’s conversation with Mr. Bowlin, and the reasoning that only someone present in the exit interview could have given the details to reporters that they now possessed, Plaintiffs knew that either Mr. Saari and/or Mr. Swartzle, or someone at their direction, had spoken to the Lansing news media and leaked the information that Defendant had fired Plaintiffs at the behest of Courser and Gamrat."
Courser/Gamrat Report Witholds Key Info About Key Cotter Staff From Public...
"The Report also completely omitted the key facts of all of the times when Plaintiffs reported to Messrs. Saari and Swartzle, as they were instructed during orientation, about Gamrat and Courser’s abuse of their staff and misconduct in office. The House Business Office was in direct possession of all of these instances of reporting since Plaintiffs had recounted them for Mr. Bowlin during their exit interview with Messrs. Bowlin, Saari, and Swartzle."
Cotter Keeps Graham And Allard From Testifying...
"It was made clear to Plaintiffs that Speaker Cotter, Mr. Swartzle, and/or other members of Republican leadership did not want Plaintiffs to testify at the hearing. This was the impression left by the outside legal counsel representing Defendant. In addition, at one point during the hearings, Mr. Allard called the office of Rep. McBroom, who was the chair of the Select Committee. Mr. Allard reported to Rep. McBroom’s staff that he had noted inaccuracies in Mr. Swartzle’s televised testimony before the committee, he noted what those were, and he offered to testify if it was necessary. Instead of hearing back from Rep. McBroom or his office, Tim Bowlin, the director of the House Business Office, called Mr. Allard back and said he was calling at Mr. Swartzle’s behest. Mr. Bowlin said that Mr. Swartzle – who is a lawyer – wanted to meet with Mr. Allard immediately to discuss his testimony, even though Plaintiffs were represented by their own legal counsel by this time. 73. Although making it clear that they would appear at the hearing if subpoenaed or if asked, Plaintiffs agreed that they were not necessarily eager to testify. They did not wish to be further associated publicly with the behavior of Courser and Gamrat, and they knew they were sure to be asked questions about when they had reported concerns to Messrs. Saari and Swartzle, and Speaker Cotter. They did not wish to be forced to publicly air the details of their conversations and risk that Messrs. Saari, Swartzle, or Cotter – powerful political figures – would attack Plaintiffs’ reputations further to try to discredit Plaintiffs and protect themselves."
Language tweaked to benefit Speaker's narrative over the investigation...
"At 9:12 p.m. on September 9, 2015, the night before the final day of public hearings by the Select Committee, outside counsel for Defendant, Peter Ellsworth, emailed counsel for Plaintiffs wanting her to approve the following statement to be read on Plaintiffs’ behalf by Rep. McBroom, the House Select Committee Chair (“the Committee Chair”) first thing the next morning: “Ken [sic] and Ben have no comment and nothing to add beyondS [sic] what they told the house business office.” 75. After consulting with Plaintiffs at that late hour, legal counsel for Plaintiffs responded by email at 11:06 p.m. to Mr. Ellsworth’s request by saying that the Committee Chair could read the following as Plaintiffs’ statement: “Mr. Allard and Mr. Graham adamantly deny any suggestion in the House Business Office Report or otherwise that they were fired for good cause. Reps. Courser and Gamrat had them wrongfully terminated because they refused to misuse taxpayer resources or otherwise cover up other misconduct by Reps. Courser and Gamrat. Mr. Allard and Mr. Graham fully cooperated with the House Business Office investigation and provided relevant information they have to that body.” 76.The next morning, on September 10, 2015, the Select Committee conducted its final day of public hearings into the misconduct of Gamrat and Courser. However, when the Committee Chair read what he said was the statement of Plaintiffs, it had been subtly but importantly changed from what Plaintiffs’ attorney had provided the night before. Instead of stating that Mr. Allard and Mr. Graham “…provided relevant information they have to [the House Business Office investigation]” as part of the statement Plaintiffs had approved, the Committee Chair read that Plaintiffs provided “all pertinent documents to the House Business Office report.” The suggestion was made that Plaintiffs had been asked to provide information relevant to the legality of their employment termination, which they were not; and that the Report contained all relevant facts about the legality of their termination and what Plaintiffs had spoken about, to whom, and when, which it did not."
"Plead the 5th" Lie...
"Worse, though, during the final day of public hearings into the misconduct of Gamrat and Courser, was the Committee Chair’s public response about why he was not calling Plaintiffs to testify. When asked by members of the Committee if Plaintiffs would be called to testify, the Committee Chair responded as part of the public hearing by claiming that Plaintiffs said that they would “plead the Fifth” if asked to testify, and therefore he would not be calling Plaintiffs to testify. Neither Plaintiffs nor their legal counsel ever said that or anything remotely like that. During the remainder of the hearing, and the ensuing floor debates in the House lasting into the early morning hours of September 11, 2015, several other members of the House repeated the claim voiced by the Committee Chair that Plaintiffs were not present to testify because they were planning to “plead the Fifth,” based on the representation of the Committee Chair. 78. The public generally understands the expression “plead the Fifth” to mean that a witness is exercising his right under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to refuse to answer questions for fear he might incriminate himself. The suggestion by the House to the public by repeated use of the untrue statement that the House did not call Plaintiffs to testify during the public hearings because Plaintiffs planned to “plead the Fifth” was that Plaintiffs believed that they had done something illegal. This untrue claim by the Chair of the House’s Select Committee caused additional unwarranted damage to Plaintiffs’ reputations. "
Brandon Hall is a lifelong political nerd from Grand Haven, and is the Managing Editor of West Michigan Politics.
>>>Email him at WestMiPolitics@Gmail.com
Brandon Hall is a lifelong political nerd from Grand Haven, and is the Managing Editor of West Michigan Politics.
>>>Email him at WestMiPolitics@Gmail.com