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Michigan House urges resignation of Inman, who told donors ‘I need money’

The Michigan State House passed a resolution with a 98-8 vote Thursday urging indicted Rep. Larry Inman to resign from his post representing Grand Traverse County. 

Lawmakers passed the measure without debate, and the Republican Inman wasn’t there. He hasn’t attended a single session since May, when he was indicted on federal charges of bribery, extortion and lying to the FBI. Inman has pleaded not guilty and has requested a federal judge dismiss all the charges. Earlier this month, the judge denied the motion to dismiss the charge of lying and said he would rule later on the charges of bribery and extortion. 

Inman has repeatedly said he won’t resign. Expelling Inman from the chamber — which would require a two-thirds supermajority vote — is not yet on the table for Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield and Minority Leader Rep. Christine Greig, who have said they are hoping Inman chooses to resign on his own. Meanwhile, Inman continues to receive his $71,685 salary. 

"We think he should do the right thing, we believe he should step down," Chatfield told reporters Thursday. However, he implied they do have the numbers for expulsion: "The right step to take today was asking him to resign and that's what we did. We had a supermajority in our request to ask him to resign."

"This punitive action taken before Representative Inman has had a full opportunity to air his side of the story is a violation of his Constitutional rights to the presumption of innocence we all enjoy and need to zealously guard," Chris Cooke, Inman's lawyer, said in a statement. 

Prosecutors allege Inman asked the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights union for more than $5,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for a vote against the controversial prevailing wage repeal last June and that he lied to an FBI agent who later asked him about it. 

In the days leading up to the vote, prosecutors allege Inman texted union representative Lisa Canada asking for money. 

“We only have 12, people to block (the vote.) You said all 12 will get $30,000 each to help there (sic) campaigns. That did not happen, we will get a ton of pressure on this vote,” Inman wrote, according to prosecutors.

“I would suggest maxing out on all 12 (representatives’ campaign committee contributions), or at least doubling what you have given them on Tuesday, asap,” Iman wrote, court records show. 

“We never had this discussion,” Inman added, according to court documents.

In an interview with Bridge Magazine shortly after the indictment, Inman did not deny writing the text messages but said he is innocent of the charges.

“I did not do those things that they have accused me to do, and my integrity and honesty is above any approachability on any bribe,” the three-term lawmaker said.

“Really? Do you think that I would stoop that low? No, never.”

Inman’s lawyers announced in June that he had been struggling with opioid addiction and that he would be seeking treatment. 

“His physicians will continue to evaluate his ability to effectively serve his constituency as his treatment progresses,” the lawyers said in a statement.

Inman also faces a recall petition from a bipartisan group in Grand Traverse County arguing he should be removed because of the three felony charges, his defense in court that he had “diminished capacity,” and his missing of at least 80 House votes. The Board of State Canvassers unanimously approved the petition and Inman’s attorneys said they intended to appeal the decision. 

New text messages released this month through legal filings show Inman discussing campaign money and the prevailing wage vote with other lawmakers, consultants and union representatives. 

In one exchange, Inman told a Traverse City-area IBEW representative he would need a lot of help “and a ton of campaign money” to vote against the repeal bill. 

“What is the number and I will see what I can do,” responded David Fashbaugh, the business manager for the union chapter, according to court records. 

“We are barely keeping 12 no votes to kill it,” Inman texted Fashbaugh a few minutes later. Prosecutors claim in court records Inman referred more than once in the text messages to these 12 as “the dirty dozen.”

“The R party will be all over my ass. Me I need money, and then help with votes!”

Inman’s lawyer, told The Detroit News he is seeking to submit more text messages that will provide further context to the ones already released. He said “the whole story has not been told.”

In a discussion with Republican consultant Dan Pero about the political implications of his vote, Inman said he couldn’t upset an influential Republican contractor and others in his district who benefitted from prevailing wage, so he’d prefer not to vote on it and have it sent to the public to vote on a statewide ballot, according to court records. 

“Sending (prevailing wage) to the ballot won’t bring D’s in voter land to your side and you will shut down any incentive for the big donors to give,” Pero responded, citing other votes Inman took that were unpopular with Republican donors. 

“You’re on the edge, pal … You vote yes on (prevailing wage), my friend, you will get a pass on the other votes.”

When he later decided to vote to repeal, Pero appeared to pledge to talk with donors over the summer: “This vote was the big deal for groups with dough. Makes your yes vote an easy sell for me,” the court records show.

“Ok, many thanks, I don’t have the clout you have with big donors,” Inman responded.

The court papers allege he also texted Chatfield that he chose “to protect our people over my (principle)” and now he needs a “shit load of money.”

“This vote put me in a shit hole,” he wrote.

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