GRAND RAPIDS—Facing charges of soliciting a campaign bribe and mounting calls for his resignation, state Rep. Larry Inman remained defiant as he pled not guilty Tuesday in federal court in Grand Rapids.
Inman headed toward an elevator after the court hearing and did not directly respond to reporters’ questions about whether he would step down. As the elevator doors closed, defense attorney Chris Cooke said: “There’s no plan to resign right now.”
The Grand Traverse County Republican faces federal charges of extortion, bribery and lying to an FBI agent, tied to his alleged pursuit of a campaign donation of more than $5,000 from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights union in exchange for a vote against the prevailing wage repeal proposal last summer.
“Mr. Inman pleads not guilty to all three charges,” Cooke told U.S. Magistrate Judge Phillip J. Green as his client sat beside him.
Previous Bridge coverage:
- Michigan state rep sought bribe for vote through text messages, feds allege
- Michigan lawmaker denies bribery: ‘Do you think I would stoop that low?’
Green released Inman on a $25,000 unsecured bond – for which he pays no money up front – but would forfeit if he fails to show for future court appearances. Green also ordered him to surrender his passport as well as his enhanced driver’s license, which allows him to travel to Mexico and Canada.
An indictment issued May 14 by a federal jury in Grand Rapids cites text messages between Inman and both a lobbyist representing the union and Lisa Canada, the union’s political director, in the days preceding the House’s vote on prevailing wage.
Both Inman and the union confirmed Canada was the recipient of the text messages, but the union did not comment further on the allegations.
“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 the indictment.
“I would suggest maxing out on all 12 (representatives’ campaign committee contributions), or at least doubling what you have given them on Tuesday, asap,” he continued, adding: “We never had this discussion.”
According to the indictment, Inman texted a union representative and said: "I hear the prevailing wage vote may be on Wednesday," and while "carpenters have been good to me, where are the rest of the trades on checks?"
Michigan’s prevailing wage law required the state to pay union-scale wages on construction projects. Many Republicans opposed the law because they argued it artificially inflated taxpayer costs for state projects. Democrats and unions warned that repealing the law would lower wages for workers overall and prevent unions from being able to compete with non-union contractors.
The union did not contribute to Inman’s campaign after receiving the text messages, and Inman voted to repeal the law a few days later.
Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield has called upon Inman to resign, saying “it is in the best interest of this institution” that he step down.
Chatfield stripped Inman of his committee assignments after learning of the indictment. Michigan House Republicans later booted Inman from the GOP caucus, which means he can’t participate in closed-door meetings where policy decisions are often shaped.
Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes called for Republicans to initiate proceedings to expel Inman from the House, which would require a two-thirds vote.
“The fact remains that a legislator facing serious federal charges remains in office, collecting a generous taxpayer-funded salary while having lost all trust and credibility with both the public and his colleagues,” she stated.
Asked Tuesday by Bridge Magazine if Speaker Chatfield will move to expel Inman, Chatfield spokesman Gideon D’Assandro said: “He has asked him to resign and is still waiting to hear back. He hopes Rep. Inman makes the right decision for himself, the state Legislature and the people he represents.”
In the meantime, Inman can still vote on legislation and continues to receive his $71,685 annual salary.
Inman had told Bridge not long after his indictment that he had reached out to the union organization looking for reasons to justify a “no” vote he deemed would be unpopular in his district.
“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.”
Cooke, Inman's Traverse City-based lawyer, had told Bridge his client’s outreach to the union “certainly wasn't an effort to solicit funds," adding, "you know, it's perfectly legal for a candidate for elected office to accept endorsements. As part of that endorsement process in Michigan, you can also have up to $10,000 from a PAC group contributed to your campaign coffers. That's perfectly acceptable."
When asked for clarification as to whether Inman was seeking to accept an endorsement from the MRCCM via campaign funds, Cooke said, "I'm not going to let you cross examine me."
Inman's intent "was certainly not to solicit money in exchange for votes," Cooke said. "He was trying to report back to somebody who he thought was a friend, and the group that he supported in this referendum as to what the progress was on the (House) floor."
Despite texts indicating he was seeking checks on behalf of a dozen lawmakers, Inman told Bridge he did not talk to any Republican representatives about the vote or “about checks from unions,” he said.
He said he doesn’t have “the slightest idea” who the other 11 representatives were that he was referring to in his text message to the union.