LANSING - The attempt to silence Sen. Irma Clark-Coleman, D-Detroit, on Tuesday on last week’s incident where Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw, the chair of the Senate Department of Human Services Appropriations Subcommitttee, allegedly assaulted her in a Capitol elevator.
At the end of each Senate session, usually, each Senator is allowed to make a five-minute statement on any subject, but last Thursday Senate Republicans abruptly adjourned without allowing statements. But Clark-Coleman got her chance Tuesday, and she read a letter into the Senate Journal.
Following a hearing on the Department of Community Health (DCH) budget last Wednesday, Clark-Coleman said Kahn "charged at me like a bull,” before he was restrained by Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy. Kahn continued his "bellowing" as she left the elevator. Clark-Coleman said she felt "fearful that given the opportunity, this legislator would continue to use physical intimidation to reinforce his policy positions."
Clark-Coleman declined to press police charges, but the Senate is going to conduct an investigation. Secretary of the Senate Carol Viventi, appointed by the Republicans, and newly appointed Assistant Secretary Adam Reames- who was nominated by the Democrats and just approved by the Republicans on Friday- will interview witnesses.
Pappageorge made a statement after Clark-Coleman, and predictably, he wants the Senate to put the incident behind them as soon as possible. Kahn was silent.
“I do want to remind all of us that most of us are going to be working together for another year and a half--another year and a half, and it is not going to be an easy year and a half, “ Pappageorge said. “We need to put this event behind us just as quickly as possible and as soon as the investigation is completed.”
This is Clark-Coleman’s letter:
Dear Senator from the 12th District:
I submit this letter as a formal complaint against the State Senator from the 32nd District who I believe is a menace to the State Legislature. He perpetrated petulant and violent behavior towards me following a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting yesterday afternoon in the Capitol Building. I ask that you sanction him for conduct unbecoming of an elected official. I am fearful that given the opportunity, this legislator would continue to use physical intimidation to reinforce his policy position.
He accosted me inside the main elevator. He came at me as if he was going to strike me after I expressed my great displeasure with the committee's approval of the Senate substitute for House Bill No. 4436, which literally decimates Wayne County's and Detroit's ability to provide mental and medical treatment for poor and uninsured residents. This 40-percent cut is even more devastating because the money will not be returned to the General Fund to reduce our state's budget deficit, but it will be redistributed to other counties and towns. I maintain my strong opposition to this legislation and will continue to represent the interests of my district even in the face of physical compulsion at the hand of a Senate colleague.
The Senator from Saginaw charged at me while we were both confined in a 6-foot by 6-foot elevator. His hysterical behavior startled citizens who, like me, were simply trying to leave the Capitol Building. Everyone looked on in horror until the good Senator from the 13th District blocked his advance to my side of the elevator car. As the doors opened on the Ground Floor, the Senator from Troy took me by the elbow and escorted me out of harm's way. Despite my exit, the legislator from the 32nd District continued his verbal assault. His bellowing startled the Kentwood Senator and the State Budget Director, who were conversing at the visitor's desk. Both gentlemen looked up in utter amazement.
Never in my 12 years as a legislator, 7 years as a member of the Detroit Board of Education and 30 years as a Wayne County employee have I been attacked for my policy positions. I commend Troy's best for his quick action to shield me from my aggressor, who had lost control of his temper and his ability to reason. This incident has severely shaken me and caused me to question the true motivation of some colleagues when it comes to shaping public law. I naively believed the days of employing physical intimidation in the political process were a part of America's dark past. I now know that at least one member of the Michigan Legislature prefers this old-fashioned bully tactic over intelligent debate.
My 90-minute commute home did little to squash this apprehension that hovered over me like a stormy rain cloud. My husband, Reverend D. Coleman, Sr., could do little to console me as I replayed the horrible events of the afternoon. I asked myself, "Is this what has become of the State Senate?" After some contemplation, my response was an emphatic "no." I believe the Michigan State Senate is greater than one individual. Our honorable call to serve the people of Michigan far outweighs dishonorable actions by those who devalue decency and order while embracing indecency and chaos. As leader of the Republican Caucus, I respectfully request that you take corrective measures against the Senator from the 32nd District, and I look forward to your immediate response.
Now I've had to endure over the weekend character assassination and questioning whether I am telling the truth. There have been many attempts by the Republican staff to discredit me. Even under all of that duress, I will still go to go forward. If I'm not satisfied with that, I will take further action, and I will reopen the case that was closed.