State Rep. Larry Inman, R-Williamsburg, concluded his text message to a representative of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights with: “We never had this discussion.”
A Republican state representative is facing calls to resign after he was indicted Wednesday on allegations he solicited a bribe in exchange for a vote against the controversial prevailing wage repeal package passed last year.
House Speaker Lee Chatfield's staff confirmed Wednesday he has stripped Rep. Larry Inman, R-Williamsburg, of committee assignments and wants him to step down. The request comes as Inman faces charges alleging he asked the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights union for more than a $5,000 campaign contribution to vote against a proposal to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law.
“I am innocent of these charges,” Inman said in a statement Wednesday. “I have always represented my constituency honestly and legally. I intend on vigorously fighting these charges and defending my reputation.”
The prevailing wage law, which is a favorite of unions and opposed by Republicans, required state construction projects pay laborers union-scale wages and benefits. Inman eventually voted for the repeal, but not before prosecutors accuse him of seeking donations for himself and others in exchange for votes.
“My suggestion is you need to get people maxed out,” on campaign contributions, Inman wrote in a text to a representative for the union a few days before the prevailing wage repeal vote in June, according to the indictment.
He concluded, “We never had this discussion.”
Prosecutors allege he followed up the request with two more texts seeking donations. The union had donated $6,000 to his campaign in the year leading up to the text messages, but it didn’t donate any more following the texts.
The texts go into great detail about how much Inman and unnamed other lawmakers would need for their support, the indictment alleges.
An FBI agent later asked Inman about the text messages and the state representative falsely denied them, the grand jury alleges.
Inman’s arraignment date has not yet been set. He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted of extortion, bribery and lying to an FBI agent.
“Everyone in the House is surprised and disappointed by this news,” Chatfield said in a statement Wednesday. “The indictment just came to my attention this morning, and I am still gathering more information.”
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Wednesday the charges underscore that Michigan needs more stringent financial disclosure requirements for elected officials.
“We are one of two states that doesn't require our representatives to disclose their personal finances, leading questions of conflicts of interest,” Benson said.
“It's important that when there are conflicts of interest or even going so far as bribes ... that we that we investigate and hold those accountable.”
While it’s unclear whether better reporting laws would have prevented the allegations, Michigan has repeatedly been in the bottom nationwide in integrity rankings.
A Bridge and Michigan Campaign Finance Network investigation in 2016 found multiple Michigan lawmakers have voted on legislation despite having a financial or personal conflict of interest with it.
The Center for Public Integrity had similar findings in a 2018 investigation, and gave the state an ‘F’ for integrity in 2015. As recently as the lame duck session late last year, state legislators pushed legislation that would help their business or those of former colleagues.
Another group, Voters Not Politicians, also called for Inman's resignation. The group is behind last year's successful ballot measure to allow a citizen panel, rather than lawmakers, draw legislative districts following the 2020 Census.
"Every voter in Michigan – whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent – knows money in politics is, like gerrymandering, is a fundamental reason our government is broken," the group's executive director, Nancy Wang, wrote in a statement.
"The next step to fix our broken government is for state Rep. Larry Inman to resign immediately, with a thorough investigation to follow to uncover how far this scheme has spread into our legislature."
Inman is a third-term lawmaker who, until he was stripped of his assignments, chaired the Military and Veterans Affairs and State Police Subcommittee and the Joint Capitol Outlay Committee. He also served on the Health and Human Services Subcommittee, School Aid and Department of Education Subcommittee and the Appropriations Committee.