Lapeer, MI (WNEM) -- Two Mid-Michigan lawmakers, one bizarre email and a shocking sex scandal. Now a group investigating whether taxpayer money was misused to hide the affair has finished its preliminary report.
State Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, is under investigation after he was reportedly caught on tape talking about an affair with another lawmaker, State Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell. They are accused of having the affair on taxpayer time.
Courser is also accused of using state resources to cover it up.
Courser's aide recorded the discussion and released it to the Detroit News. In the recording Courser tells his aide he'd like to send a fake email out to republicans claiming he had sex behind a nightclub with a male prostitute.
Courser hoped it would appear to be a smear campaign.
"Now anything that comes after this is part of that. It's a burn, and people say I'm not listening to that [expletive]. They're attacking him," Courser is heard saying in the recording.
Both Courser and Gamrat are married with children.
"I'd like him to own up to what he's done. I mean, that's what anyone should do I guess, regardless of how bad it is. Tell the truth," said Richard Young, Lapeer resident.
The state's Republican Party issued a statement, calling the allegations very serious.
Now the Director of the House Business Office, Tim Bowlin, has released a statement on his office's preliminary report. The office is looking into whether the lawmakers misused resources to hide their relationship and attempt to cover up the situation.
In the statement Bowlin said:
"After completing the investigation, we have preliminary findings of both misconduct and the misuse of taxpayer resources by both representatives. The Business Office has completed a draft report on these findings and has submitted it to outside counsel for an independent review. Asking an outside counsel to review the report is a normal process to protect the privacy and confidentiality of affected individuals and ensure compliance with Human Resources regulations. The findings will be made public once the legal review has been completed."
A finding like this could lead to Rep. Courser and Rep. Gamrat's expulsion from the Michigan House.
Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter released this statement about the preliminary findings. "I have received a draft report to review, and there is troubling evidence of misconduct. I am directing my legal counsel to review the preliminary findings for the purposes of any further disciplinary actions."
Some Michigan lawmakers have called on Courser to resign. However, Courser said he won't.
Courser released an audio recorded statement that said he was being blackmailed and that's why he wanted to send the email.
At this time it is unclear who sent the email.
Community outcry growing
"Get him out of here, we don't need him in there," said resident Robert Markley.
After the House Business Office announced their preliminary findings show evidence of misuse of taxpayer resources, Markley wants Courser out of office.
Markley isn't alone. Protests started shortly after Courser's failed smear campaign. Lapeer resident Jake Davidson, who has already filed to try and fill the House post Courser occupies, said Courser needs to resign.
"He needs to write that letter and give it to the speak at 9 a.m. tomorrow, clean out his office, so we can have a special election to replace him as quickly as possible," Davidson said.
The calls for Courser's resignation have only intensified.
"We in Lapeer County are no longer going to stand for him," said resident Deborah Lawson.
Lawson is fuming over the continued controversy swirling around Courser.
"Without his credibility, he needs to resign. In a week, if he does not resign, I am asking those of Lapeer County to actively protest until he hands in his resignation," Lawson said.
The week is up, and Lawson was back on Aug. 20, asking Courser to resign voluntarily, without a recall or community vote.
"We do not want to pay the tax dollars to put in an effort to have him recalled. We would rather just have him forced out of office on his own," Lawson said.
Sharing those sentiments, resident and singer/songwriter Chris Eilersen.
He and fellow musicians have recorded a song – "Hit the Road Todd" – to reinforce their message: they want Courser gone.
"I thought it would be interesting in a fun sort of way to let people know how serious the situation is with Mr. Courser," Eilersen said.
Lawson said concerns she has passed on to her legislator have been overlooked because of the scandal.
She now wants representation who can focus on the issues at hand.
"I really think that the County of Lapeer needs somebody credible in office. We pay his paycheck. For him not to be a voice on our behalf, where are we to turn," Eilersen said.
Outside Courser's Lapeer law office on Aug. 13, Paula Proctor and her twin sister Paulette Johnson marched and held signs asking the embattled state representative and close friend to step down.
"Todd, if you're watching, just give it up buddy," Proctor said.
The cries for Courser's resignation have been growing since it was revealed he manufactured a phony gay sex scandal to cover up his actual extramarital affair with fellow state Rep. Cindy Gamrat.
"If people are going to have affairs, that's up to them, their spouses, their God, whatever. But when you put an email out like he did, that's where my trust left," Johnson said.
In fact, the sisters said they helped Courser escape the awaiting media outside his office last Friday. But, after hearing all of the allegations for themselves, they now regret doing that.
"We thought we were doing good. We thought we were doing something right. To get slapped in the face, that's sad," Johnson said.
Lawson watched the protest. She supports the local effort to force a recall election if Courser chooses not to voluntarily resign his state house post.
"I think it's a great idea. Unfortunately, it takes 8,000 signatures to get him recalled," Lawson said.
There's been no activity inside Courser's Lapeer law office since the beginning of the week, and there's still no clue on where the state representative might be.
Back to work
Gov. Rick Snyder said work is getting done at the state capital, despite the recent sex scandal between two lawmakers.
Speaking to TV5 exclusively before slipping away into his capitol office, Snyder offered his thoughts on the sex scandal involving Courser and Gamrat.
Courser admits to creating a phony gay sex scandal to cover up his actual affair with Gamrat.
"It's terribly unfortunate. Both in terms of the personal costs to their families, and then the investigation is ongoing about the potential misuse of state funds," Snyder said.
Courser and Gamrat are resisting calls to step down. Courser spoke to TV5 and said he's vowing to keep working for the people who elected him.
"We all have personal issues, but the people of the 82nd District, Lapeer County, elected me to come here," Courser said.
Across the aisle, not everybody is happy the two embattled representatives showed up to work after a month long recess.
"I think that Rep. Courser and Rep. Gamrat need to leave the House immediately," Tim Greimel said.
Greimel, the House Democratic leader, is pushing for a police investigation into the affair and cover up.
"As I've said before, we need a law enforcement agency with subpoena power to look into this, get to the bottom of what happened, and hold accountable those who are responsible," Greimel said.
The governor said he is on the fence about whether or not the duo should step down.
"It's terribly unfortunate," Snyder said.
Former aide steps forward
The fallout from Courser and Gamrat's affair was so bad, one staffer said Courser would sleep on the floor of Gamrat's office and she would tuck him in.
Joshua Cline, the former aide to Courser and Gamrat, said the two would disappear for hours at a time.
"I am here to set the record straight," Cline said.
Cline called Courser's personality a real life Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
"From my first day in office Mr. Courser adopted a rather disrespectful and almost haughty approach to me and other staffers," Cline said.
Cline said over time the freshman Tea Party favorite became more and more difficult to work with.
"His attitude became more arrogant and elitist," Cline said. "The most pointed example being during a staff meeting where he said, let's get this straight boys we're not here to pass legislation, we're here for messages and media moments."
And then Cline said Courser's behavior became unbearable and said Courser began spending more and more time with Rep. Gamrat.
"Courser and Gamrat showed an absolute disrespect for me and [other] staffers' time and resources," Cline said.
Cline, standing alongside his wife and attorney, said he had no choice but to come forward on Aug. 17, to save his integrity and distance himself from Courser.
After Cline's press conference, Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon made a statement, calling for an investigation of Courser and Gamrat.
"The more we hear about this sordid and bizarre episode, the less we know," Dillon said. "The one thing we do know is that the Attorney General needs to get involved and head up an independent investigation into all parties involved, including House Speaker Kevin Cotter. On any given day, we learn of a new wrinkle to this story of lies, cover-ups and potentially criminal behavior. It's long past time for Bill Schuette to actually show up for duty."
Dillon submitted a Freedom of Information Act request on Aug. 13 seeking employment records for three staffers fired with knowledge of Courser and Gamrat's affair.
The request itself is seeking hiring and firing dates, salary increases and names of personnel involved in those decisions.
"There are far too many questions, including whether state resources were used in a criminal cover-up, and the public has the right to know," Dillon said in a statement.
Dillon also said he was concerned about what House Speaker Kevin Cotter knew about the affair before the Detroit News reported on it.
The Michigan Democrats are calling for an independent investigation by Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Blame and blackmail
Courser is publicly accusing political consultant David Forsmark of blackmail.
"He's insane. He's a megalomaniac of a really strange high order," Forsmark said.
In a Facebook post, Courser even posted screen shots of what appear to be texts from a phone with a Detroit area code which told Courser to either resign or risk the affair coming out.
The embattled Republican lawmaker said that's why he concocted a bizarre gay sex scandal to cover it up.
"I have never sent Todd Courser a text message, I have never asked anybody to send Todd Courser a text message," Forsmark said.
Courser fired aides he accused of being behind the plot, whom Forsmark is friends with. He said their hands are clean.
"Ben and Josh are really good at what they do," Forsmark said. "They were loyal to Todd way beyond what you should have been loyal to Todd. They did not have anything to do with trying to take him down."
The political consultant has one last piece of advice for the embattled representative.
"Just get out and don't come back," Forsmark said. "I want him to publicly go down in flames."
Gamrat hires private investigator
Gamrat may be close to finding out who exposed her affair, at least that's what the private investigator she hired is claiming.
Gamrat and Courser have both said they received threatening text messages to either come clean or resign. Neither of them agreed and the Detroit News exposed their affair in early August.
Gamrat said the private detective she hired has identified the person who owns the phone number that was used to send her and Courser the threatening texts.
She is waiting on a second source to confirm the identify of the alleged blackmailer, Gamrat said, adding the texts originated from a 313 area code.
There is no word if Gamrat paid the investigators out of her own pocket or used taxpayer funds.
House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel called on Attorney General Bill Schuette to lead the investigation against Courser and Gamrat.
"The allegations of wiretapping, blackmail and the use of taxpayer dollars to cover-up an affair between Rep. Todd Courser (R-Lapeer) and Rep. Cindy Gamrat (R-Plainwell) are serious and demand a full and impartial investigation. Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mount Pleasant) has asked Tim Bowlin, director of the House Business Office, to lead this investigation. However, since Bowlin serves at the discretion of Speaker Cotter, and because Courser has made allegations against Cotter's office, this inquiry must be turned over to an independent, outside agency. Even Tim Bowlin last week stated the need to move the investigation to a different party if laws were broken. I urge Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to lead this investigation and get to the bottom of these allegations. There is no place in the Legislature for people who are engaged in criminal conduct, and when accusations of this magnitude are raised, the taxpayers of Michigan deserve a full investigation," Greimel said in a statement.
State Rep. Candice Miller released the following statement on Courser:
"Todd Courser, a man who never passes on an opportunity to preach about his supposed morals and his close relationship with God, constantly evoking religion in his personal and political stances, has proven to be completely unfit to represent the hardworking residents of Lapeer County, using taxpayer dollars to abide and assist his gross misconduct. Based on these revelations, under no circumstance can Todd Courser continue to represent the residents of Lapeer County, who are good, hard working community and faith-based folks. This behavior is a slap in their face, especially from someone who presents himself as a moralist. I feel bad for all of the hard working Tea Party activists who helped him become a representative and he rewarded them by saying that we need to, inoculate the herd.' Todd Courser must resign."
Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland sent messages to Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, and Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell, urging that they immediately resign. He then issued the following statement:
"Tragic and sad as it is to say given the damage to their families, constituents, and the legislative process, it is my firm belief that Rep. Courser and Rep. Gamrat should immediately resign from the state House of Representatives.There is no possible reasoning or rationale by which their remaining in office will benefit their families or the conservative cause that so many have worked so long to advance. The longer the scandal and ridicule continues, the more damage will be done to both their families and to that cause.It is absolutely not "essential for the cause of liberty," as Rep. Courser asserts, that he remain in public office. The behavior to which he's publicly admitted has, by association, damaged and discredited the cause of liberty and of conservative, constitutional, and limited government, and the longer political adversaries are allowed to demonize those principles in the media by association with such tactics, the more damage will be done to conservatives' ability to advance those ideals in Michigan.We are taught by our Christian faith to offer compassion, forgiveness, prayers, and support to those who acknowledge wrongdoing and make sincere efforts to heal the damage done to their families. But extending such compassion and forgiveness to them as individual private citizens does not mean they should remain in positions of public trust, leadership, and accountability.I'm hopeful that they will not force their families, constituents, or fellow legislators to endure weeks, months, or longer of allowing this damaging distraction to continue. It should end now."