LANSING – State Representative Robert Wittenberg (D-Oak Park) declined to vote yesterday and this morning on House Resolutions 139 and 141, which sought to expel Representatives Todd Courser (R-Lapeer) and Cindy Gamrat (R-Plainwell) from the Michigan House of Representatives. Citing transparency issues within the House select committee, which first examined the situation, the representative felt that key information had been manipulated or withheld, making an informed vote impossible.
“I take each and every vote I cast on behalf of the 27th District seriously. This one is no exception, especially considering we were voting to expel democratically-elected members from this esteemed body. The magnitude of this vote could not be overstated,” Wittenberg said. “I’m gravely concerned that this process was severely flawed, and could not vote on this matter in good conscience.”
Among the many issues within the Select Committee to Examine the Qualifications of Representatives Cindy Gamrat and Todd Courser, key were the striking of significant testimony and the refusal to call necessary witnesses. Democratic committee members frequently requested more information and were denied by the Republican chair.
“Don’t get me wrong, I think Representative Gamrat should have resigned like Representative Courser. What they did was detestable!” Wittenberg said. “But we cannot just shrink the proper procedure just because we hate what they done and what they stand for. They deserve a fair hearing and we deserve to know all the details before making such an important decision.”
Republicans also refused a Democratic call for the investigation to be turned over to the state Attorney General to conduct a criminal investigation, but eventually agreed to turn the House Business Office report over to the AG and Michigan State Police to look into criminal wrongdoings.
“The committee struck key testimony from Speaker Kevin Cotter’s office concerning the allegations from the official record and refused to call on key witnesses (former employees) to testify in front of the body as to what they experienced while in Rep. Courser’s and Gamrat’s office,” Wittenberg said. “Were they whistleblowers and illegally terminated? Is there more information that has been concealed? There were only two days of witness testimonies. Quite simply, there was not sufficient information, and the committee did not finish its work.”