By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
LANSING — The expulsion votes Thursday and Friday for state Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat left state representatives exhausted and in a reflective mood.
The majority of Democrats refused to vote on the resolution to expel Courser from office, leaving the House at an impasse for about 15 hours. Many legislators assumed the two tea party Republicans, caught up in a sex scandal, would not have to wait long to learn their fates.
“It was a miserable, long night,” said state Rep. Dave Pagel, R-Oronoko Township. “I don’t need too many more nights like that.”
At one point, all non-voting Democrats were told that if they chose not to vote, they would be found in violation of House rules. The motion for reconsideration was met with just as much reluctance, which left many state representatives frustrated. In the end, Courser tendered his resignation and the House proceeded to vote in favor of Gamrat’s expulsion.
State Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, who was stuck in his seat along with other House members due to the stalemate, released a few comments in regard to the impasse.
“The Legislature exists not for its own edification, but for the betterment of all residents. When the Legislature ceases to do that, it ceases to be valuable and it certainly ceases to be respected,” Pscholka said in his statement. “The course of events tonight and this morning were not about vindication, or punishment, or malice, or moral righteousness.”
Toward the end of the first vote on the resolution, Pscholka sent out a few tweets criticizing the opposing party’s strategy.
Partway through the 15-hour session, a few Democrats released a joint statement, calling for a thorough investigation on the Courser-Gamrat issues.
“I was pretty disappointed by the partisan games the Democrats were playing by holding off the board,” said state Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton. “The Democrats asked for some changes to the resolution that would instruct the state Attorney General and the Michigan State Police to conduct an investigation and we agreed. That’s when the Democrats decided they were going to vote.”
Nesbitt was in the thick of things as the House’s majority floor leader. He is tasked with bringing resolutions, bills and amendments to the House floor for a vote.
After attending a 9/11 ceremony at noon Thursday, Nesbitt said representatives went back into session at 1:15 p.m. and adjourned just before midnight. At 12:01 a.m., the House picked back up where they left off and went on to adjourn a little before 4:30 a.m.
Nesbitt was there to accept Courser’s letter of resignation around 3 a.m., shortly before changes were made to the resolution.
“(Courser) knew the Democrats were going to vote for the resolution and he decided to resign,” Nesbitt said. “It was a two-sentence resignation letter. I accepted it from him and brought it up the House to read.”
After the resolution to expel Gamrat passed, Nesbitt said he sat in his office to collect his thoughts before heading home.
“It’s not easy when deciding on expelling members,” Nesbitt said. “There were only three others who have been expelled in the state prior to (Thursday night). I’d rather be talking about the issues that really matter to the state, like transportation and energy. But it was justified.”
State Rep. Pagel left the capitol at about 4:30 a.m., but got home at 7 a.m. after a few short stops on the road due to exhaustion.
He said he was not expecting the hearing to be dragged out.
“I was surprised. I didn’t think we needed to spend that much time on it,” he said. “It wasn’t a joyful mood.”
Pagel said it was hard on everyone as the hearing continued, but that the final decision was warranted.
“I came to the conclusion that it was best for the state. The situation had gotten too far out of hand,” he said. “I didn’t think it would serve their districts well (if they were censured). They would have still been able to collect salaries and benefits. On a personal level, I wish the best for those two individuals to recover from this stumble in their lives.”
A censure would have carried the loss of committee assignments, staff and office expense allotments.
Courser, R-Lapeer, and Gamrat, R-Plainwell, had previously admitted to misconduct in office. They’ve also apologized for their actions and had asked the House Committee to censure, rather than expel them.
Word first broke of their affair when audio recordings surfaced and revealed Courser had asked his staff to send an anonymous, e-mail that he had written, saying he was addicted to drugs and pornography, and paid for sex with men outside a Lansing bar.
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Sept. 12, 2015)