LANSING, Mich. -- Following the first meeting of a special House committee assembled solely to determine the fate of embattled Reps. Cindy Gamrat and Todd Courser, Gamrat told reporters her fate should be left to voters.
"I still get support letters everyday in the mail asking me not to resign from my constituents," Gamrat said Tuesday morning. "I'm weighing everything out and there's a lot to consider in all this. It's a big decision."
In a meeting lasting less than 10 minutes, the committee met to set rules and distribute the full House report to each of the six members. Each member received a thick black binder including documents, interview transcripts and other relevant information. The morning meeting signaled the first official step in the process that could lead to expulsion, censure or members choosing to take no action at all against Gamrat and Courser.
Any final decision by the committee will serve as a recommendation for the full House to consider.
While Courser didn't attend, Gamrat and her attorney were at the meeting. Gamrat's attorney said it was a difficult decision for his client to be there Tuesday morning, but one she felt necessary to fulfill.
"She needed to be here and let them know we're ready to face what's coming," Mike Nichols, Gamrat's second hired attorney, told reporters.
"There's a lot we need to learn, there's a lot of details we've got to get our arms around and a lot of studying to do and historical precedent we still want to review and that's the business we're doing."
Gamrat did not respond directly to questions about findings released in Monday's House Office Business report, nor to allegations made by Courser in a rambling 4,000-plus word statement he released late last night.
"I'm not going to comment on someone else's actions," she said. "I'm here because I want my colleagues to know that I want to find a solution to move forward so we can get this taken care of and get back to the business of the people in Michigan."
Asked if it was awkward to be there Tuesday morning, Gamrat said it was hard but added it was part of her working to understand the process and the allegations being brought against her so she can "be part of a solution."
Nichols, who stated he and his client were exploring all options short of expulsion, said it shouldn't be a question of whether Gamrat is fit to hold office but rather whether she's qualified to continue holding her position.
"Is she qualified as deemed by two-thirds vote in the House," Nichols said, referencing the amount of votes needed for a successful expulsion. "It's ultimately a political question and it's a historical question."
The special bi partisan committee created by a resolution passed in August is made up of six lawmakers from across the state including:
- Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, Chair
- Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth Township, Vice Chair
- Rep. Rob VerHeulen, R-Walker
- Rep. Andrea LaFontaine, R-Columbus Township
- Rep. John Chirkun, D-Roseville, Minority Vice Chair
- Rep. Frank Liberati, D-Allen Park
McBroom, chair of the committee, called the situation Tuesday a very solemn and sober occasion.
"This isn't about politics, this is not supposed to be a celebrity show. This is about the integrity of the institution," he told reporters.
"The people of this state have explicitly given authority to the House of Representatives and the Constitution to police itself. In order to maintain faith with the citizens of Michigan, we have this obligation."
McBroom said neither Gamrat nor Courser will be subpoenaed to testify during committee hearings but will have the right to do so if they are inclined. McBroom said the committee will utilize oath as seen necessary, adding members will operate "with the utmost fairness" and "won't tolerate anything less."
Asked about comments made by Courser in a statement Monday night, who called the entire process a "kangaroo court," McBroom responded saying his comments show a complete lack for understanding how the committee functions.
"We are not a court," he said. "So as far as an allegation in that this is a Kangaroo court, I think it's extremely unfortunate anyone would make those kinds of statements before we've even convened."
The summary of the House Business Office investigation released Monday said report the conservative freshman lawmakers were "deceitful" and "misused their office, their office staff and other state resources to cover-up an affair."
Audio recordings obtained by the Detroit News in August revealed Courser, R- Lapeer, was planning to distribute a fictional email alleging he had sex with a male prostitute in order to hide his relationship with Gamrat, R- Allegan County.
Several Democrats, including House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, continue to lambaste the Republican House Speaker's Office for not releasing the entire investigation report to the public. Greimel told FOX 17 he questions how much the Speaker's Office knew about the affair and when they knew about it.
"It's very disturbing that the Republican Speaker's office continues to hide the ball when it comes to large parts of this report," Greimel said.
"It raises very serious questions about what the Republican Speaker is trying to hide."
McBroom did tell reporters Tuesday the House Speaker's Office plans to release the full report at the end of the process.
Due to scheduling conflicts, the committee isn't expected to meet again until after Labor Day, likely next Tuesday.