Inman witness list includes Chatfield, 3 other GOP lawmakers

State Rep. Larry Inman talks to reporters after a months-long hiatus from the House, Sept. 3, 2019 | Nick Manes

Indicted state Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg) will stand trial for allegations he attempted to sell his vote last year beginning Dec. 3. 

Speaker Lee Chatfield | Nick Manes

Included as possible witnesses in Inman’s defense are state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), a number of other GOP state representatives and prominent lobbyists and staffers. 

Also included on the defense’s list of potential witnesses is Lisa Canada, the political and legislative director for the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights (MRCC), a labor union that Inman sought campaign contributions from last year in exchange for a “no” vote on repealing prevailing wage. Inman ultimately voted to ax the union wage policy. 

Inman faces charges of lying to federal law enforcement, extortion and attempting to solicit a bribe.

Lisa Canada

A court brief filed earlier this week says Canada reported text messages from Inman to law enforcement two days ahead of the vote. Then in the weeks following the vote Canada recorded a phone call with Inman “with the assistance of the FBI,” in which she “indicated that she was alarmed and insulted” by Inman’s previous messages.

“Inman apologized for the message and said that he was panicked and concerned that there would not be enough ‘No’ votes on the prevailing wage law and that the only way he could figure it out was to get more checks for legislators who might vote ‘No,’” according to the court filing.

Inman went on to say that following his vote to repeal prevailing wage, he was “in a panic” and never should have sent the messages.

In an email on Wednesday, Canada declined to comment. 

Additionally, federal Judge Robert Jonker, who is presiding over the case, ruled against allowing one of Inman’s doctors to testify, according to court documents. Inman has been planning to use a diminished mental capacity due to an opioid addiction as part of his defense. 

Court filing: Inman sought contributions from electrical workers union

Gongwer News reported that Jonker questioned the expertise of the proposed witness. 

Inman’s attorney, Chris Cooke, declined to comment on Jonker blocking the doctor from testifying.

Beyond seeking contributions from the Carpenters union, other text messages released by the government show Inman was also seeking contributions from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

He also sought help from prominent GOP staffers in effort to improve his access to campaign dollars from Political Action Committees (PACs). 

The defense lists three sitting lawmakers as potential witnesses: state Reps. Gary Howell (R-North Branch), Steve Marino (R-Harrison Twp.) and Joe Bellino (R-Monroe).

Inman case heads to jury trial

Cooke told the Advance on Wednesday afternoon that he believes the witnesses, if called to testify, will be necessary to help show that Inman’s actions were in line with normal campaign finance practices.

“We’ve identified witnesses that we believe will show the discussion of campaign funds in a light that is consistent with legal campaigning,” Cooke said. “It’s a distinction that we have to draw and I think that’s what we’re trying to do with those witnesses.” 

State House GOP spokesman Gideon D’Assandro declined to comment on the caucus members’ presence on the defense’s witness list.

Inman’s colleagues have overwhelmingly called on the Traverse City-area lawmaker to resign, which he has yet to do and has maintained his innocence. 

House overwhelmingly votes in favor of non-binding Inman resignation resolution

Campaign finance experts have said they believe the case against Inman appears to meet the textbook definition of corruption. 

As the Advance has previously reported, Inman maintains that his eventual vote in favor of repeal was a means of allowing Bellino to vote against the repeal of the law and allow former state Rep. Dave Pagel (R-Berrien Springs) to vote for it. 

“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 in a text message following the vote. “[N]ow I am going to have a shit storm.”