Court filing: Inman sought contributions from electrical workers union

Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg), May 16, 2019 | Nick Manes
Updated, 3:43 p.m. 8/2/19

New text messages unveiled in a court filing on Thursday show indicted state Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg) asking a union official for “a ton of campaign money” as he pondered a vote last year over the repeal of prevailing wage. 

Inman, who ultimately voted last summer with most Republicans to repeal the union wage policy that went on to become law, was indicted in May on charges that he had attempted to sell his vote and lied to federal law enforcement. He has resisted calls for his resignation and been absent from House sessions since the indictment was handed down. 

Inman, now in his third and final House term, currently is facing a recall campaign in his northern Michigan district, based around Traverse City. 

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Federal prosecutors are asking U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker to allow the additional text messages obtained from Inman’s cell phone to be admitted as evidence in their case against him. 

The texts, which were first reported by the Detroit News, are similar to messages included in the initial indictment in which Inman sought money from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights (MRCC). The new texts, which are riddled with typos and misspellings, show Inman was also seeking money from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). 

The texts also reveal that Lisa Canada, political and legislative director for the MRCC, was the recipient of Inman’s alleged bribery attempts. Canada never responded to any of Inman’s messages, however, according to the court filing.*

In one text message, Inman allegedly told IBEW Local 498 Business Manager Dave Fashbaugh that the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), which pushed the prevailing wage repeal, “are all over me.”

“If I take the vote no to send [prevailing wage] to the ballott [sic], I am going to need alot [sic] [of] help and a ton of campaign money,” Inman wrote on June 1, 2018, just days ahead of the ultimate vote to repeal. 

Fashbaugh responded, “What is the number and I will see what I can do.”

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Inman said he needed $30,000 “from all the trade unions associations,” noting that he got $5,000, mostly from the MRCC. 

Fashbaugh, who did not respond to a request for comment, replied in a text: “I am on it as we speak [and] text.”  

The IBEW business manager went on to write: “I know mostly what we can provide is boots on the ground, a lot of my membership votes Republican. I know if you support us we will support you. That was stated by our international president that we will support the politicians that support us, either side of the [a]isle.”

Inman’s attorney, Chris Cooke, did not respond to a request for comment on Friday afternoon.  

He reportedly told the Detroit News that “the whole story has not been told,” and maintained his client’s innocence. 

Inman pleads ‘not guilty’ to bribery charges

Republicans had sought for years to repeal prevailing wage, which mandated union-level wages for certain publicly financed construction projects. Republicans last year adopted a citizen-driven petition and repealed the law, which could not be vetoed by Republican then-Gov. Rick Snyder, who favored the prevailing wage policy. 

Throughout the text messages, Inman told people that he was in “a no win” situation because of a close reelection campaign — which he ultimately won by just 349 votes — and was in need of campaign contributions. His Traverse City-based district has “several [prevailing wage] employers,” he wrote to Dan Pero, a Republican political consultant who at the time was chief of staff to then-state House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt). 

“[Grand Traverse County] is getting more democratic each year, I can not afford to piss off Republican contractor[s],” Inman allegedly wrote to Pero on the morning of the prevailing wage vote. 

The initial indictment noted that Inman was also seeking contributions for a dozen other unidentified GOP House members in exchange for their “no” votes to block the repeal. Throughout the messages, Inman makes reference to the “dirty dozen” who could block the repeal. 

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Ultimately, seven Republican House members voted against the repeal of the law. 

Following the vote, Inman wrote to multiple people that he voted for repeal as a way of allowing former state Rep. Dave Pagel (R-Berrien Springs) to vote “yes” and allowing state Rep. Joe Bellino (R-Monroe) to vote against repeal. 

“I went to Pagel and he needed cover and more important I could not let Bellino take the hit with a yes, so I had to protect our people over my principal [sic],” Inman allegedly wrote to Pero following the vote. “[N]ow I am going to have a shit storm.”

Nick Manes
Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels.


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