Lucido yanked from key Senate post after sexual harassment probe kicked off by Donahue’s story

By: - March 5, 2020 4:06 pm

Senate Advice and Consent Committee Chair Peter Lucido, Feb. 20, 2020 | Allison Donahue

A months-long Senate Business Office investigation into sexist comments made by state Sen. Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Twp.) concluded Thursday, resulting in a decision from Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) to remove Lucido from his position as chair of the influential Senate Advice and Consent Committee.

Lucido will also be required to participate in additional training, according to Shirkey. He will stay on as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A request for comment from Lucido’s office was not immediately returned.

The investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Lucido was launched in January after Michigan Advance reporter Allison Donahue wrote a first-person story, in which she detailed Lucido’s sexist comments toward her. Among his many statements, Lucido told Donahue a group of schoolboys could “have a lot fun” with her.

Donahue has made this statement on the investigation results:

“I made the difficult decision to come forward and write about Sen. Lucido’s sexist comments to me in front of students while I was just trying to do my job as a reporter because I believed it was the right thing to do. I also wanted to try and ensure that other women wouldn’t be subjected to inappropriate behavior at the Capitol. I am pleased that the Senate Business Office investigation found today that the senator’s conduct was ‘inappropriate workplace behavior’ and decided to act on it. I think this is an important step for equality and respect in the workplace.”

Allison Donahue

Since Donahue’s story, which made national and international news, state Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) and Melissa Osborn of the Michigan Credit Union League have both said the Shelby Township Republican sexually harassed them, too.

According to the memorandum sent to Shirkey and Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) on Thursday, the Senate Business Office (SBO) investigators conducted a total of 35 interviews with 25 individuals to reach their conclusion.

Those findings, which were sent in a “confidential and privileged report” to the SBO on Monday, concluded that Donahue, McMorrow and Osborn were found to be “credible” in their accusations and that the incidents “more likely than not” occurred as reported by each accuser.

“Furthermore, the investigators concluded that Senator Lucido’s conduct ‘demonstrates an unfortunate pattern of behavior’ that requires ‘little to no interpretation to be understood as inappropriate workplace behavior,’” the memo from the SBO reads.

As for determining disciplinary action against Lucido, Senate Policy EL 04(G)(2) provides that the decision is up to the discretion of the Senate majority leader. 

Shirkey issued a lengthy statement after the investigation results were released.

“… As a result of the conclusions reached by that fact-finding effort, I have made the decision to remove Senator Lucido from the Michigan Senate Advice and Consent Committee. Furthermore, Senator Lucido will be required to participate in additional training,” Shirkey wrote.

“We place a high priority on ensuring the senate is a safe work environment. We endeavor to foster a culture where senators, staff, and members of the public feel comfortable and secure to interact with one another, free from inappropriate behavior. We have a responsibility to be aware of how our words and actions are received, regardless of intent or interpretation.

“We take accusations of inappropriate behavior in the workplace very seriously. It is my sincere hope that this experience will help serve as motivation for us all to do better and be better in our personal interactions and our public discourse.”

Shirkey added that that the Senate will soon announce a bipartisan workgroup, comprised of senators and staff, “to review our current policies and offer possible suggestions for improvement.”

In response to an Advance email inquiring as to whether Shirkey has decided will take over the Advice and Consent Committee in Lucido’s absence, spokeswoman Amber McCann said Shirkey “has not yet made that decision.”

In recent weeks, the Advice and Consent Committee voted down two of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s appointees to the Natural Resources Commission, including former Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell and biology professor Anna Mitterling, who were ultimately rejected by the GOP-led Senate.

State Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing), who sits on the committee, said the rejection of Mitterling was sexist.

In a phone call Thursday, McMorrow told the Advance that the investigation results feel “validating.”

“I think the effort that the Senate Business Office and the independent counsel put in, it felt very, very thorough and very fair, which I appreciate. And, you know, it feels validating that between Allison, myself and Melissa that we were all deemed credible,” McMorrow said.

“And I think that that matters, and my hope is that it shows for any other women who experienced harassment that you can come forward, and you will be taken seriously.”

Asked whether she thinks the removal of Lucido from Advice and Consent is enough of a consequence for his actions, McMorrow said it’s not her place to determine that, but she is hopeful that it will create a shift in culture that McMorrow believes is already starting.

“I hope it is. I hope it’s enough. I hope it sends a message that the behavior is not acceptable, and that actions have consequences,” McMorrow said.

McMorrow had previously asked for the Lansing-based MIRS News to withdraw Lucido’s award as 2019 Senator of the Year in light of the allegations. Publisher John Reurink declined to do so.

Ananich spokeswoman Rosie Jones told the Advance that “Sen. Ananich stands behind Sen. McMorrow, and she speaks for everyone in the caucus in this regard.”

Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, released an emailed statement Thursday stating that Lucido would have been fired from his behavior in most workplaces.

“Any decent workplace would fire someone for showing a pattern of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior. Sen. Lucido gets a slap on the wrist and will still chair two other committees. Lucido has shown zero remorse or even acknowledgment that what he did was wrong,” Scott said, adding that Lucido will ultimately have to answer to his constituents who “should hold him accountable for his actions.”

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.