Michigan House Speaker calls for resignation of indicted state representative

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.JPG
Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.JPG

The speaker of Michigan’s House of Representatives has called on a fellow Republican colleague to resign after news came down of a federal indictment that alleges corruption and attempts of bribery.

Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, said he wants to see Rep. Larry Inman, R-Williamsburg, step down from his position. Inman faces three charges after a federal grand jury indicted him Wednesday for attempted extortion, bribery and lying to the FBI.

“I’ve asked Representative Inman to resign from his official capacity as state representative and he told me that it would be under consideration,” Chatifeld said Wednesday on the House floor.

According to a federal indictment, Inman was accused of soliciting money through text messages between June 3 and June 5, 2018. The messages were sent to a labor union and the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, MRCCM.

The indictment said the money was in exchange for voting "no" on the 2018 legislative initiative petition to repeal Michigan's prevailing wage law.

The MRCCM did not respond as Inman allegedly requested. Inman ultimately voted “yes” on June 6, 2018, to repeal the law, and the Michigan House repealed the law by a vote of 56 to 53, according to the indictment.

Chatfield did not put a timeline on Inman to resign, but did strip the representative of his committee assignments Wednesday afternoon during session. Inman’s attorney, Christopher Cooke, said Inman has no intentions on resigning.

“I am innocent of these charges. I have never compromised the integrity of my vote. I have always represented my constituency honestly and legally,” Inman said via statement through his attorney. “I intend on vigorously fighting these charges and defending my reputation.”

Inman’s seat on the House floor sat empty Wednesday and he was excused from session. His office has been closed and turned over to the House Office Building.

Details of the indictment

The indictment includes excerpts of text messages Inman was believed to have sent to union representatives in the days before the vote, one of which Inman concludes by stating “we never had this discussion.”

Mike Jackson, executive secretary-treasurer of the MRCCM, said the union’s members deserve elected leaders who vote on the merits of a bill and how it will impact taxpayers and “hardworking people.”

"We’re glad that Larry Inman is being brought to justice,” Jackson said in a statement.

The grand jury concluded, based on the evidence it saw, that Inman committed multiple crimes as an elected representative.

Using his authority as an elected official, these allegations include his to vote on the petition to repeal the prevailing wage law and efforts to obtain money from the MRCCM with the union’s consent.

If convicted, Inman faces up to 20 years in prison.

It is also believed that Inman sent the following text message to a lobbyist in Lansing on June 3:

"We all need some more help! Carpenters have been good to me, where are the rest of the trades on checks? We only have 12 people to block it."

When asked more about the 12 people Inman referred to, Chatfield said he did not know anything about it.

“I have not had a chance to go through the indictment and have no recollection of what he’s referencing in those statements,” Chatfield said. “The conduct and test messages sent by Representative Larry Inman are completely out of line and are completely against the spirit of this institution and because of that I have asked him to resign from his official capacity as state representative.”

In that same June 3 text message, Inman said:

“[Person C] will pull assignments for next term on this vote. You have no idea the pressure on this one for [Person B’s state] race, to pull this off for the Tea Party.”

The FBI redacted the names of other individuals from the publicly available court documents. Speculation swirls as to who ‘Person C’ and ‘Person B’ could be, but nothing has been confirmed just yet.

Statewide response

Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, represents the neighboring district to Inman. He said he wants the people of Inman’s district to know that they can come to him with any concerns or issues.

“I saw the charges brought against Rep. Inman in the media like everyone else. [I’m] hoping to have a conversation with the Representative at some point to find out what happened. If constituents of the 104th need any assistance with state government as a neighboring Rep. in the 1-5 district, they should feel free to reach out to my office,” Cole said via text message.

The Michigan Republican Party said due to the fact that it is an ongoing legal matter, there was no statement to be made right now.

Meantime, the state Democratic Party did not hesitate to blast the GOP Representative for his actions.

“The charges against Rep. Inman are incredibly disappointing and concerning. Not only is Inman accused of violating the trust of his constituents, the oath of his office, and the law, but his actions, if true, show a deeply troubling pattern of Republican disdain for the working people of our state,” MDP Chairwoman Lavora Barnes said. “This is a stark reminder that elections have consequences. The citizens of Michigan deserve representatives that put the people of our state first and do not abuse the trust of the public or the power of their position. It is now up to Speaker Lee Chatfield to put party politics aside and do what is right for the 104th District and our state by demanding Inman’s immediate resignation.”

What’s next

Inman is innocent until proven guilty and the court documents show what evidence the FBI and prosecutors believe to have against him. If Inman were to resign from his position, a special election is likely to fill the vacant seat. A primary could take place in August 2018 with a general election in November.

Inman is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges in a federal court in Grand Rapids on Thursday, May 23.

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