House bills would disclose state officials, lawmakers named in sexual harassment settlements

By: - October 11, 2021 2:43 pm

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

A pair of Michigan House bills would shed light on any future sexual harassment or sexual assault settlements entered into as a result of accusations against state legislators and top Michigan officials.

The House bills — HB 4920 introduced by state Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Wayland) in May, and HB 5281 introduced by state Rep. Adam Fink (R-Adams Twp.) in August — were discussed Thursday in the House Oversight Committee, but were not put up for votes.

The panel will take up the bills again on Thursday.

Currently, neither the governor’s office nor the state Legislature are subject to public records requests.

Johnson’s bill, HB 4920, would require the public disclosure of certain reports on sexual assault or sexual harassment claims made against state lawmakers. Both the settlement amount and name of the elected official connected to the complaint would be made public by the state Legislature upon request.

“The taxpayers, they should know if their rep. is a dirtbag or not,” Johnson said  during Thursday’s hearing.

If a settlement agreement is entered into because of a sexual assault or harassment claim against an elected executive official — i.e. the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general or secretary of state — the state department or agency that official works for would similarly be required to make those settlement details public upon request, under HBl 5281.

Fink’s bill notes that the name of the victim alleging sexual assault or harassment would not be publicly identified.

If adopted, both bills would apply only to settlements entered on or after the legislation goes into effect. They would apply to settlements being dealt with on an administrative level as well as those entered into in any civil court case in which taxpayer money is being used for the settlement.

Sen. Peter Lucido at a Washington Township coffee hour, Jan. 17, 2020 | Ken Coleman

During Thursday’s hearing, Johnson said he was prompted to work on the bills in 2018 following sexual harassment allegations against the late former U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and former U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, both Democrats.

More recently and closer to home, now-Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido was the subject of numerous sexual harassment allegations during his last term in the state Senate in 2020.

After Advance reporter Allison Donahue first accused the Republican of sexual harassment in January 2020, state Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak), Melissa Osborn of the Michigan Credit Union League and Ingham County Judge Lisa McCormick also came forward and alleged similarly inappropriate behavior from Lucido.

The Senate Business Office conducted an investigation into the allegations, concluding in March 2020 that the women were “credible” in their allegations, Lucido had engaged in “inappropriate workplace behavior” and had demonstrated “an unfortunate pattern of behavior.”

Lucido stepped down from the Legislature after winning his race for Macomb County prosecutor in November.

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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.