House GOP Hearings into Courser-Gamrat a ‘Pathetic Joke’ and a Cover-Up of Speaker Cotter’s Role

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
News from Progress Michigan

September 9, 2015

Contact: Sam Inglot, 616-916-0574, sam@progressmichigan.org

House GOP Hearings into Courser-Gamrat a ‘Pathetic Joke’ and a Cover-Up of Speaker Cotter’s Role

Progress Michigan renews call for independent investigation

LANSING — Progress Michigan is demanding an independent investigation into the Courser-Gamrat scandal after witnessing the House’s investigative hearing today. At the hearing, key testimony was struck from the record and it was made apparent that key witnesses in the story would not be testifying before the committee.

The scope of the current investigative hearings and the Republican actions on the committee demand an independent investigation that covers what House Speaker Kevin Cotter’s office knew about the scandal, when they knew it, and what they did about it.

“The hearing today was a pathetic joke, which is why we’ve been calling for an independent investigation from the beginning,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “Today’s actions by the committee appear to be an attempt to cover-up the House GOP’s prior knowledge of Courser and Gamrat’s misconduct rather than getting to the bottom of their actions. The jury has made up their mind and are wielding the gavel to pass their pre-determined sentence.” 

At the hearing today, Norm Saari, former chief of staff to House Speaker Kevin Cotter, was brought up to testify. He refused to answer questions regarding whether or not he knew about the alleged misconduct by Reps. Courser and Gamrat before or after the firings of their staff. Press reports based on reviews of the just released full report indicate that Cotter, Saari and their staff had knowledge of the misconduct long before the first Detroit News story broke the scandal.

Eventually, after refusing to answer the questions and having the GOP members of the committee shield him from the inquiry, it was moved by Chairman Ed McBroom that Saari’s testimony be struck from the record. That motion passed with GOP support and Democratic opposition.

“Norm Saari is at the heart of this scandal and to shield him from legitimate questions and then strike his remarks from the record show that this committee is nothing but a sideshow put on to deflect attention from Speaker Cotter,” Scott continued. “We know from his own admission that Saari had first-hand knowledge of the problems in the Courser-Gamrat office and the report released yesterday indicates that he spoke with Speaker Cotter about it. The affair and abuse of taxpayer funds by Courser and Gamrat are appalling, but so is this blatant attempt to hide the truth from Michigan citizens.”

According to the public evidence released on Tuesday, it shows that House Speaker Kevin Cotter’s office knew there were problems in the Courser-Gamrat office.

On page 680 of the public evidence, it’s written, “The first meeting was around the 2nd week of January. Norm [Saari] called Keith [Allard] and wanted to meet him.”

It goes on to say that “In a second meeting with Norm [Saari], Keith [Allard], Ben [Graham], & Josh [Cline] talked about how they felt like they were being asked to do things that were in violation of policy. For example, they were being asked to send e-mails through political databases.”

Kevin Cotter even knew there were issues in the office, according to the evidence: “Keith [Allard] said Speaker Cotter walked[ed] by as they were having the meeting and Norm briefed the Speaker on what was going on. In a third meeting with Norm, Keith asked Norm to please find other work for Ben and Josh because Rep. Courser and Rep. Gamrat were becoming unstable.”

It was also revealed at the committee hearing today that the fired staffers, Ben Graham, Keith Allard, and Josh Cline would not be testifying before the committee. Again, key testimony about what the Speakers office knew about the situation will not be viewed by the committee, despite the fact that evidence shows, in fact, Kevin Cotter knew something was afoot. 

“Why would the committee not hear directly from the three witnesses involved in this case?” questioned Scott. “The only answer I can think of is that the committee’s GOP members have already been told what they are supposed to find and what their actions should be. This sideshow needs to end and we need a real independent investigation immediately.”

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