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Activist considers recall (From 8-12 County Press)

Activist considers recall

BY JEFF HOGAN
810-452-2640 • jhogan@mihomepaper.com

 Rep. Todd Courser Rep. Todd Courser OREGON TWP. — Local Republican Party activist Randy St. Laurent voted for Rep. Todd Courser and by doing so helped elect and send him to Lansing to represent the 82nd House District.

But he’s been disappointed. He had hoped Courser was going to take his conservative values and help shape legislation and policy to finance the state’s crumbling roads and bridges, to help bring equality to Lapeer County’s public schools and those across the state or take on any number of high-profile issues of inter- est to local residents.

“I was dead wrong there, too,” said St. Laurent, 65, a quality manager for Auburn Hillsbased Schenck Ro Tec Corp. “In short I am one of the many people Todd Courser let down.”

St. Laurent, who serves on the Oregon Township Planning Commission and on its zoning board of appeals is no stranger to local politics.

It’s because of his passion for public service and effective government for the people that St. Laurent could not sit on the sidelines any longer this week after learning of Courser’s alleged extramarital affair with his conservative colleague Rep. Cindy Gamrat, and worse yet the apparent cover-up scheme to cover the trail that involved office staff.

St. Laurent met Courser and had a brief conversation with him only hours after all hell broke loose Friday following publication of a story and audio recordings by the Detroit News. As a political associate St. Laurent offered Courser some advice — resign, and do it now, to save further embarrassment to his family, the people of Lapeer County who trusted him with their vote and to the local Republican Party brand that could be tarnished by the shocking revelations of the past week.

St. Laurent told Courser to resign by Thursday (Aug. 13) or else he will start a recall election to force him out of the seat.

“I am considering a recall. I have pulled the papers and I’m exploring what it will take to do this if he doesn’t do the right thing and step aside,” St. Laurent told The County Press Monday night. “It pains me to do this, but this can’t continue … And I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to get the necessary number of signatures considering what’s happened.”

In a letter to the editor submitted to The County Press, St. Laurent wrote, “Resign first, and then begin the long list of apologies. Apologize first to all the people of Lapeer County who you were supposed to represent. You wanted the job and when you got it you should have done it. Instead you put your own personal desires first. You have soiled the integrity of all future politicians — Republicans and Democrats yet to come. You have given credence to the, ‘They’re all crooks’ crowd.”

In his letter he continued, “Apologize to the Christians who truly do practice their faith … And let’s not forget Ben Graham, a young homeschooled Christian who would not become part of this deceit, and may have lost his job because of his moral convictions.

Apologize to the Tea Party people, many of whom study the issues, know the facts and act to support this great country.”

Said St. Laurent, “I weep for your mother. She is a friend of mine. I have watched your ambitions take their toll on her. She always stood by you. I’m sure she will find a way to stand by you now. You ask too much.”

A former Wayne County prosecutor said Friday that Courser potentially could face criminal charges.

Gary Wilson, who was an assistant prosecuting attorney in Wayne County in 1988-92 and is now a criminal defense attorney in Grosse Pointe Woods, told the Detroit Free Press that Courser faces, at the least, a potential misdemeanor charge of willful neglect of duty, but also could potentially face a felony charge of misconduct in office by a public officer if the allegations are true.

Courser and Gamrat are subjects of an internal investigation ordered by Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant. The House of Representatives business office on Friday seized the state-owned equipment in Courser’s office including laptops, emails and other digital recordings as part of its investigation and could levy punishment — such as reimbursing the state for inappropriately used state funds — or they could refer the matter to law enforcement like the Michigan State Police or another state agency including the Attorney General’s Office for further action.

“This has just gotten too crazy. Todd needs to do the honorable thing and resign. There’s no way this is going to come out in his favor. Anyone can see that,” St. Laurent said.

In order to conduct a recall election, said Lapeer County Clerk Theresa Spencer, the number of recall signatures would need to reflect 25 percent of the total votes cast in the county in the November 2014 gubernatorial election — more than 7,000.

Observing events unfold as they have, on Friday Spencer contacted the state’s Bureau of Elections to check on procedure in anticipation of an action such as St. Laurent may pursue.

“It kind of looks like that’s where we’re going,” Spencer told The County Press on Tuesday.

Michigan election law sets three dates for election — November, May and August. It’s uncertain at this time should there be a recall election that there’s enough time to complete everything that needs to be done in time for November, thereby making it a possibility the election could be held until May.

Cost of a recall election could exceed $120,000, said Spencer, a cost that would be incurred by county government. “That’s a lot of money for us to find unexpectedly when it’s not budgeted for a regular election, but that’s how it goes,” she commented.

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