House Dems condemn GOP leadership’s lack of action on criminal and ethics complaints

Speaker is waiting for the legal process to ‘play out’

By: - October 12, 2022 1:29 pm

House Speaker Lee Chatfield at the Mackinac Policy Conference, May 30, 2019 | Andrew Roth

Michigan House Democrats on Tuesday alleged “widespread corruption” within the Republican majority that controls the chamber, with crimes as serious seditious conspiracy.

At a press conference in Lansing, Democrats cited numerous investigative measures and other efforts at accountability that have been ignored by GOP leaders, which they say has encouraged corruption and misdeeds.

House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.) speaks at a press conference announcing Democrats’ voting rights bill package, Nov. 3, 2021, at the Ingham County Courthouse | Laina G. Stebbins

“The Republican majority hasn’t allowed a single investigation to begin despite numerous credible allegations that lawmakers misused their office, worked to undermine the votes of Michiganders, and participated in schemes to undermine our democracy,” said House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township). “This is what corruption looks like — increasingly credible allegations about representatives violating their oath and breaking the law, and knowing full well that there won’t be any investigation into their actions. This is the corruption the current Republican leadership has fostered, and it’s dangerous for Michigan and destructive for our democracy.”

 Democrats say that since the start of the current term in January 2021, they have pursued multiple bipartisan investigations of alleged misconduct or abuse of office by over a dozen Republican lawmakers, beginning with former House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering).

Chatfield is under investigation by police on allegations he sexually abused his sister-in-law beginning when she was 15, directed campaign funds to family members and legislative staffers, and gave staffers in his office $300,000 in taxpayer-funded bonuses. 

House Resolution 260, sponsored by Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit) and introduced in March 2022, would have created a select committee to investigate Chatfield. However, it was quickly sent to committee and mothballed.

“It has been over 200 days now since we demanded a House investigation into former Speaker Lee Chatfield,” said Carter. “His alleged actions are totally unethical and strike directly at the House of Representatives, and we get Republican leadership that refuses to let anyone take a look at what he did while he led the chamber. It is precisely what we warned would happen, and this absurd instinct to bury every scandal involving their members must be met with urgency.”

During the press conference, Democrats shared a video timeline of the various demands for investigations, which included:

  • HR 10, sponsored by state Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton) and introduced in January 2021, seeks accountability for state Rep. Matt Maddock over his alleged role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
  • HR 333, sponsored by state Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) and introduced in September 2022, asks the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate 11 Republican representatives for the alleged crime of seditious conspiracy.
  • HR 334, also sponsored by Tate and introduced last month, seeks accountability for state Rep. Daire Rendon (R-Lake City) over allegations that she used her office to illegally obtain sensitive voting equipment.

“We have offered numerous resolutions to create bipartisan investigative bodies, and the answer is always the same,” said state Rep. Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac). “Even our resolution to create an ethics review committee has been shut down with zero consideration. Our demand to investigate Rep. Rendon for her alleged election equipment tampering scheme is the same story — only silence from Republican leadership as they attempt to run out the clock.”

When asked to comment on the press conference, House GOP spokesperson Gideon D’Assandro sent Michigan Advance reiterating that House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell) is waiting on the legal process.

“As he has done with other situations this term, including several investigations into House Democrats, the speaker will let the legal process play out and review any new developments as the information comes out,” said D’Assandro.

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.