By Kathleen Gray
The business office for the Michigan House of Representatives worked throughout the weekend to examine e-mail and personnel records of state Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat, a pair of Republican lawmakers caught up in an alleged cover-up of an extramarital affair.
Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, ordered the investigation after news broke Friday morning that the pair allegedly concocted a plan to distribute an e-mail accusing Courser of paying for gay sex outside a Lansing nightclub -- what Courser described in a conversation taped by an aide, who was later fired, as a "complete smear campaign" that would make reports of a straight extramarital affair with Gamrat seem mild by comparison.
The investigation is to determine whether the two lawmakers broke any House rules or whether there is any evidence of illegal behavior. The House business office can conduct interviews with current or former staffers, examine records from the two offices and could levy punishment -- such as demanding reimbursement to the state for inappropriately used state funds.
If suspected illegal activity is found, the office could refer the matter to law enforcement or another state agency for further action. The pair also could face removal from office if the House passes a resolution, which would need two-thirds support from the 110-member House, said Gideon D'Assandro, spokesman for Cotter.
The office was reviewing e-mails and other documents over the weekend, but it was too soon to tell when the investigation would be complete, D'Assandro said.
Meanwhile, Courser broke his silence, posting on Facebook: "I want to thank all of you who have offered up your prayers and support these last few days; it has meant the world to myself and my family. Given all that is happening around me I have felt it was appropriate to simply take some time and reflect and simply pray. I will try and issue a statement tomorrow...God bless you all and thanks again for your prayers!"
The e-mail, which was widely sent to Republicans in May, was an over-the-top indictment of Courser as a sexual deviant. The aide urged him to forget the scheme and resign.
Neither Courser nor Gamrat, both of whom are married with kids -- Courser has four and Gamrat has three -- returned phone calls for comment on Sunday.
Calls for their resignation continued to pile up over the weekend. U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, called on Courser Friday to resign, saying he was unfit for office. Courser has been considering running for her seat when she retires in 2016. On Saturday, Steve McNeal, chairman of the Allegan County Republican Party, where Gamrat lives, said she should resign immediately.
"Being an elected officeholder requires very high moral character and ethical behavior to properly represent your constituents. Ms. Gamrat has clearly violated the public trust," he said.
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