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House Republicans call for answers about ethics concerns related to House budget committee chair

Representative Tom Kunse (R-Clare) is Republican vice chair of the House Ethics and Oversight Committee. He's shown speaking into a small recorder in the House chamber.
Colin Jackson
Representative Tom Kunse (R-Clare) is Republican vice chair of the House Ethics and Oversight Committee. He says the public deserves to know more about outside business interests of House Appropriations Chair Angela Witworth (D-Delta Twp.)

Democratic leaders of the state House have no plans to look into whether business connections of the chamber’s budget committee chair violate ethics standards.

Republicans are pressing for an inquiry or for Representative Angela Witwer (D-Delta Twp.) to reveal more details about her continued connections to Edge Partnerships, a consulting firm she co-founded.

The Detroit News reported first this week that Witwer’s filings with the state show her as a co-owner of Edge Partnerships as recently as last year. The firm has helped clients bid for and win state contracts. As chair of the House Appropriations Committee since January, Witwer has a big influence on where state dollars are steered.

Amber McCann is the press secretary for House Speaker Joe Tate. She said Wednesday it does not appear any laws were broken.

“There’s nothing that he’s been made aware of at this point that he feels the need to address that changes the representative’s status as chair or that the speaker feels needs to be reviewed for any greater conflict of interest,” she said.

A voter-approved amendment to the state constitution will require lawmakers to disclose personal financial details, including business partnerships. But the amendment does not take effect until the end of this year.

Representative Tom Kunse (R-Clare) is the top Republican on the House Ethics and Oversight Committee. He said the public deserves answers but stopped short of calling on Witwer to resign.

“She hasn’t broken a law, to the best of my knowledge,” he said. “ Well, I can’t ask for her resignation without breaking a law, which is unfortunate. This is—ethically, this is wrong. But until we pass a law, how do you ask for a resignation?”

Kunse said tougher ethics laws for public officials in Michigan are overdue. That will be necessary in order to enact the disclosure requirements under the new amendment.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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