February 19 • 06:41 AM

High price for special election

Cost to Lapeer County taxpayers to fill 82nd District seat is $121,749 so far

December 23, 2015
LAPEER COUNTY — The extra-marital affair and bizarre attempt to cover it up that cost Todd Courser his job as 82nd District State House Rep in Lansing carried a high price tag for Lapeer County taxpayers as well.

Lapeer County Clerk Theresa Spencer says the total taxpayer expense for the November 3rd special primary election to begin the process of filling the 82nd District House seat was $121,749.01. This sum doesn't include the costs incurred by townships and cities for programming the election in their precincts, including election inspector wages and/or expenses, custodial and security costs if needed, and costs relating to absentee voter ballots.

County Controller John Biscoe says that while it would have been preferable to spend the money on something else, the election expense didn't put the county budget in jeopardy.

"There can be contingencies (in expenses) throughout the course of a budget year and so our budget contains a contingency line," he says. "All units of government understand that there could be a special election or other reasons, like indigent council and medical examiner costs, that are unexpected but budgeted for."

Biscoe adds that there is nothing more fundamental to democracy that the election process, and to be able to move funds from the contingency budget line to cover the costs of last month's special primary election is fundamental to democracy.

Todd Courser arrives late for Candidate Forum hosted by the Lapeer County Tea Party in October. The special primary election to replace him cost 82nd District taxpayers more than $121,000.

Eleven Republicans and three Democrats squared off in the Nov. 3rd primary. Ultimately, Democrat Margaret Guerrero DeLuca of Imlay City and Republican Gary Howell of North Branch emerged as winners.

The special election was set by Governor Rick Snyder on the heels of Courser's resignation in the early morning hours of September 11.

Courser, R-Silverwood, stepped down as it appeared his colleagues in the State House were ready to expel him after a State House investigation determined he misused his office as well as taxpayer funds.

Courser had been embroiled in an affair and subsequent scandal with then-fellow Representative Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell, who was expelled just before Courser resigned on September 11.

The affair came to light in August when one of Courser's former aides brought audio recordings of Courser hatching out a "controlled burn" email to Detroit News reporter Chad Livengood. In the audio tapes, Courser says he's accusing himself of being a "bi-sexual porn addicted sex deviant" to "inoculate the herd against the gutter politics" that were coming.

Courser believed that by sending the outlandish email, news of his affair with Gamrat would pale in comparison and be less believable.

The email, which states Courser was caught having sex with a male prostitute behind a Lansing nightclub, was widely disseminated to the GOP rank and file and members of the media.

Courser later said an "extortion plot" by an anonymous text message sender promoted him to create the email to root out the source of the messages.

An investigation by Michigan State Police determined the anonymous texter was Gamrat's husband, Joseph Gamrat, who was not charged for his efforts to get Courser to end the affair.

The entire bizarre story became national news and was the subject of jokes and puns by several late night comedians.

A general election slated for March 8, 2015 will determine who will fill the 82nd District seat.

In the meantime, Lapeer County taxpayers remain without representation in Lansing.

Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.
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