Two Michigan House members were stripped of their committee assignments this week after, respectively, an alleged domestic violence incident and an embattled representative allegedly snuck a handcuff key into jail.
The first case involves allegations from state Rep. Mari Manoogian, D-Birmingham, who stated she was in a “volatile relationship” with someone who committed domestic abuse. Shortly thereafter, Rep. Steve Marino, R-Harrison Township, was stripped of his committees. The Michigan State Police are investigating. The nature of the dispute isn’t clear.
House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Clare, stripped Marino of his committee assignments as chair of the Commerce Committee and as a member on the Local Government committee.
Manoogian explained in a statement with House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township.
“The unfortunate reality is that many people in our society have experienced domestic abuse, which often comes from someone we would never expect,” they said. “None of us are immune to a volatile relationship, regardless of our career. It can happen right here in our legislature, where abuse of power and threats to ruin a colleague’s reputation, as well as threats of public shaming, can be used to intimidate fellow members of the legislature.”
Lasinski asked for privacy.
“I will always put the safety of our members first,” Lasinski said in a statement. “I stand by Rep. Manoogian and her request for privacy. Our caucus is acutely aware of the challenges that come with being a female elected official and will not tolerate any threats of abuse, retribution, and public embarrassment that are used to intimidate women.”
It’s unclear what happened. In a Thursday statement, Marino admitted the two were in a relationship that ended over a year ago but said the allegations were “nothing more than politically motivated character assassination.”
“She served on a committee that I chaired,” Marino said. “I regret the fact that I went along with her request to not disclose the prior relationship to the Speaker. However, I will be clear: the insinuations made are nothing more than politically motivated character assassination that I am confident will conclude as a waste of the public’s time. I look forward to fulfilling my duties and maintaining the trust I’ve worked so hard to build during my seven years in public office.”
“I will always prioritize the safety of state legislators and those who are serving their community at the state Capitol,” Wentworth said in a statement. Once I learned of this situation, I took immediate action. Going forward, the House is honoring Rep. Manoogian’s request for privacy while others look into the allegations.”
Wentworth said they will share more updates “at the appropriate time.”
“The House will continue to assist with the Michigan State Police investigation, take every precaution to ensure Rep. Manoogian’s safety, and ultimately allow the legal process to play out.”
In the second instance of a current lawmaker stripped of committee assignments, embattled Rep Jewell Jones, D-Inkster, seized national headlines after an April arrest for drunk driving with a loaded weapon and resisting police. Jones flashed a badge when asked for identification and then threatened to call Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and slash police budgets shortly before his arrest, the News reported.
Jones subsequently violated his parole three times and allegedly snuck a handcuff key into jail.
“Rep. Jewell Jones’s increasingly disruptive and distracting behavior in the months following his April arrest has eroded my confidence in his ability to conduct the people’s work,” Wentworth said in a statement. “That behavior hit a new low yesterday when he appears to have made a bizarre attempt to escape from jail, potentially resulting in two new charges. Action must be taken to protect the public’s interest. I am now removing Rep. Jones from all House committees and encouraging him to use that time to make changes and take control of his actions.
Wentworth stripped him of seats on the Military, Veterans, and Homeland Security Committee and the Committee on Regulatory Reform.
“The Michigan House of Representatives will continue to make sure he has access to every service and every bit of support we have to help him on his journey,” Wentworth said. “I sincerely hope he finally takes advantage of those opportunities and gets the help he needs. The people he serves are counting on him to do so.”
This article was originally posted on Reps Jones, Marino stripped from Michigan House committees