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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Fired for Exposing Republican Hanky-Panky

LANSING, Mich. (CN) - Exposing an affair between Republican politicians cost a pair of Michigan legislative aides their jobs, they claim in a federal complaint.

The lawsuit filed Monday caps off a banner year for the Michigan House of Representatives, which has been embroiled in scandal over the truncated terms of Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.

Benjamin Graham and Keith Allard, the former chiefs of staff for Courser and Gamrat, respectively, say it quickly became clear when the Republican politicians took office in January that Courser and Gamrat "were engaging in an extramarital affair," though both were already married to other people.

What began with the unusual move of Courser and Gamrat combining their legislative offices soon turned more bizarre, according to the 36-page complaint.

Though Gamrat instructed her staff to conceal her whereabouts from her husband, for example, the cuckolded man nevertheless confronted the politicians about their affair in February at the Lansing Radisson Hotel, Graham and Allard say.

Allard got an awkward phone call from Gamrat's husband that morning, saying hotel security had to remove him from the hotel premises when a verbal confrontation erupted, according to the complaint.

"Cindy Gamrat and Courser were both late to the office that morning, appeared disheveled, and exhibited bizarre behavior," the complaint states. "In particular, Cindy Gamrat smelled of alcohol."

Concerned with the unpredictable and unprofessional nature of the lawmakers' actions, Graham and Allard say they addressed the misconduct with Norm Saari, chief of staff for House speaker Kevin Cotter. No action was taken.

The complaint alleges that Courser and Gamrat's staffs wound up working "extensive hours on nights and weekends to make up for the lack of time Courser and Gamrat were putting in during actual work hours."

Most upsetting to the aides, they say, was the feeling that "Courser and Gamrat were abusing taxpayer resources, including their staff."

Things came to a head in May when Gamrat's husband told Allard that he had "physical proof" of the affair, and that Gamrat had come clean when he, the husband, confronted her, according to the complaint.

"Thereafter, both Courser and Gamrat seemed sullen, anxious and depressed," the complaint states.

Graham says she became fearful for Courser's state of mind, knowing "Courser kept a loaded handgun in his office."

Later that week, Courser asked Graham to send an anonymous email to constituents "accusing Courser of having sex with a male prostitute and being a drug abuser, among other things," the complaint states.

Graham says Courser called the email a "controlled burn to inoculate the herd if news of his actual extramarital affair with Gamrat ever broke."

Although Graham refused to participate, he says either another staffer or Courser himself wound up sending the email on May 20.

The next day, Allard and Graham say they met with Saari and House majority counsel, Brock Swartzle, to discuss the mess. Again, nothing was done.

Rumor of the affair began to "spread like wildfire" in June, thanks in part to an anonymous Twitter account called "Romance at the Radisson," the complaint states.

Graham and Allard say the House abruptly fired them on July 6, without giving notice why.

The pair went to the media soon after, and the Aug. 7 report on the affair by the Detroit Free Press quickly brought about Courser's resignation and Gamrat's expulsion, according to the complaint.

In their civil complaint, Graham and Allard seek punitive damages for wrongful termination, invasion of privacy, and violations of the Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act as well as the First Amendment.

The Michigan residents are represented in the lawsuit by Sarah Howard of the Grand Rapids firm Pinsky, Smith, Fayette & Kennedy.

Howard, coincidentally, is a former Democratic candidate for the Michigan Senate.

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