A brief history of Michigan lawmakers behaving badly

Former Sen. Virgil Smith (left) and former Rep. Todd Courser (right)

State Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg) wasn’t the first Michigan lawmaker to get busted for bad behavior. And let’s face it — he probably won’t be the last.

Larry Inman

We’ve had several recent resignations and one expulsion. Here’s a brief roundup of House and Senate members who have left the Legislature under a cloud:  

State Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Highland Park), resigned in 2018.

Johnson resigned after pleading guilty to a federal theft crime and admitting he conspired to steal more than $23,000 from taxpayers for putting a “ghost employee” on his payroll. He was sentenced to 90 days in prison. Now-state Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) won the special election to replace him.

State Rep. Brian Banks (D-Detroit), resigned in 2017.

Shortly after winning re-election — in spite of his indictments — Banks resigned after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of filing false financial statements. He had been facing four criminal charges related to falsifying loan documents. Banks received a one-day jail sentence. Now-Rep. Tenisha Yancey (D-Detroit) won the special election to replace him.

State Sen. Virgil Smith (D-Detroit), resigned in 2016.

Smith was arrested in May 2015 and pleaded guilty to malicious destruction for shooting up his ex-wife’s car during a fight. After a long saga, Smith finally stepped down three days after he began a 10-month jail sentence. Now-former state Sen. Ian Conyers (D-Detroit) won a special election to replace him.

Brian Banks
State Rep. Todd Courser (R-Lapeer), resigned in 2015.

Courser resigned after the months-long drama that gripped the Capitol when he and fellow Rep. Cindy Gamrat (R-Plainwell) were accused of misconduct and misusing taxpayer resources to hide their extramarital affair. He is facing a perjury charge for lying under oath. His replacement via special election is now-Rep. Gary Howell (R-North Branch).

State Rep. Cindy Gamrat (R-Plainwell), expelled in 2015.

Gamrat faced the same issues as her former paramour, but did not step down during an all-night session and was thus expelled. She now goes by Cindy Bauer. She and Courser in 2018 both filed suits against the state of Michigan regarding their alleged treatment. Bauer was replaced in a special election by now-Rep. Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Twp.).

State Sen. David Jaye (R-Washington Twp.), expelled in 2001.
David Jaye | Macomb County Prosecutor’s office

It’s old school, but no list would be complete without the Macomb County uber-conservative who had three drunken driving convictions. Jaye was charged, but never convicted, of physically assaulting his fiancé on two separate occasions and having sexually explicit photos on his Senate-owned computer.

Voters replaced him with now-former Sen. Alan Sanborn (R-Richmond). The special primary election happened to be held on Sept. 11, 2001.

Upon being bounced, Jaye declared that “his only crime was his anti-establishment political views.” In 2014, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charges.

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Susan J. Demas is an 18-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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