WASHINGTON -- A former aide to two Michigan state representatives who allegedly instructed their staff to cover up their affair described a stressful office culture in which he “was constantly on edge and began to feel anxiety.”
In a news conference on Monday, Josh Cline accused his former bosses, Republican state Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat, of creating a “hostile and untenable work environment in which I was required to turn a blind eye toward the improper behavior in Rep. Courser and Gamrat’s office.”
Cline was the legislative director for both Courser and Gamrat, and began to suspect that the two were having an affair when they frequently canceled and rescheduled staff meetings and spent a lot of time in Gamrat’s office, or would leave the office to go on long walks.
Though Cline worked more closely with Courser, the representatives shared a lot of the same staff. Cline said that they “showed a complete disrespect toward me and other staffers.”
The two lawmakers attended most meetings together, Cline said, unless the meeting was specifically with a constituent from their respective districts. Courser was openly affectionate with Gamrat, complimenting her appearance and passionately embracing her, the former aide said. He also said that Courser often took naps in Gamrat's office, and Gamrat would bring him a pillow and "tuck him in."
When Cline tried to intervene, they rebuffed his efforts.
“I suggested that they should adopt and enforce personal boundaries. They quickly dismissed my concerns and suggested that such a request was beyond my duty as a staffer,” he said.
In April, citing the disrespect and stress that he felt, Cline took his concerns to the state house speaker’s office and submitted his resignation.
“It is not an easy task to choose integrity over a paycheck,” he said.
Gamrat’s husband discovered the affair in February, when he caught the two lawmakers at a hotel, Cline said.
In May, Courser allegedly instructed another staffer, Ben Graham, to send an anonymous email planting a fake gay sex scandal involving Courser. The lawmaker admitted that he hoped the email would draw attention away from his affair with Gamrat. Graham refused to send the email, and was later fired.
Cline said he considered Courser a close friend before they began working in the Michigan House of Representatives, and alleged that Courser “adopted a disrespectful and haughty attitude toward staffers” after taking office in January.
“He would remind us, ‘Let’s get it straight, boys. We’re not here to pass legislation. We’re here for messaging and media,’” Cline recounted. “It was like working with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
He could not comment on whether Courser and Gamrat improperly used taxpayer money to conduct or cover up their affair. The House Business Office is investigating the matter, and Cline said he wanted to speak with investigators before commenting on more specifics about the inquiry.
Both representatives insist that they will not resign, and Gamrat has denied playing a role in the cover-up.
Courser and Gamrat are tea party conservatives who ousted establishment favorites last year. They are both married with children, and are strong supporters of traditional marriage and other conservative values. On Monday, Cline condemned their behavior and accused them of hypocrisy.
“You have marriage vows, and you should stick to them. I think it reeks of hypocrisy.”