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Commentary

Why don't Courser and Gamrat just quit?

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Well, as anyone who cares now knows, the official report on the “alleged misconduct” by Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat was released yesterday.

And it makes it clear that there is no longer anything “alleged” about their misconduct. What’s most shocking to me is that they both didn’t resign long ago in order to prevent a report like this from being made public.

After reading it, you’d think they would have done anything to prevent the possibility of their kids someday reading this.

The report begins by saying that both:

“misused their office, their office staff, and other state resources to cover up an affair and for their own political advantage.”

Clearly and unequivocally, it says they lied and are still lying, that they engaged in “deceptive, deceitful, and outright dishonest conduct,” and that Courser in particular “showed a callous lack of respect and candor to his fellow representatives, constituents, and the public at-large.

” It concludes both “committed misconduct in office that warrants further investigation and review.”

It’s now pretty clear they are on the fast track to being expelled.

But those behind the report also want us to believe that the buck stops with them. State Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon has been complaining that the public needs to know what Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter knew and when he knew it. This report gives him and the leadership something less than a mild slap on the wrist.

It does acknowledge that two employees of the representatives’ bizarrely combined office went to the speaker’s chief of staff to complain, and says:

“there was reason in hindsight for the House to further inquire into the validity of their claims.”

No kidding. Everybody in Lansing knew these two were having an extramarital affair, and that they had no regard for rules and procedures, laws and tradition. Being insufficiently vigilant is a failing of leadership, and the leaders of the house clearly failed this test.

What may seem most jarring is that the report finds there is “insufficient evidence of wrongful termination” of the two whistle-blowing staff members apparently fired for refusing to sanction the outrageous behavior of Gamrat and Courser. The report pretty much says they were at-will employees, and had no protection whatsoever.

The report is ironically guilty of a Courser-like contradiction itself, when it says:

“claims of a hostile work environment … were not demonstrated by evidence provided during this investigation.”

That might be true in the narrowest legal terms, but it’s clear that if you didn’t want to lie and help cover up immoral behavior, this was a hostile environment indeed.

Well, Republicans have never been enthusiastic about worker rights. But back to the central mystery, which is why Courser and Gamrat don’t just quit, instead of being further humiliated and then thrown out. I believe I know the answer: It is $1378.56. That, plus benefits, is how much each is paid every week by the taxpayers, as long as they’re in office.

That should be an added incentive for their colleagues to move quickly to get this matter behind them – and us – and get back to work on the urgent problems facing the state.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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