LANSING, MI — House Speaker Jason Wentworth said House Republicans “went down the path of hiring a third party” to investigate the allegations against his predecessor, Lee Chatfield, but were dissuaded from doing so by the attorney general’s office.
Wentworth, R-Farwell spoke at length with reporters at his Lansing office on Thursday, November 17.
The outgoing House Speaker said Republicans have continued to cooperate fully with law enforcement, offering to review employee interviews and financial documents as needed.
“At the end of the day, you know, as things came out and things and circumstances changed, we went down the route of hiring a third party to investigate,” he said. “And when we did that, we notified the attorney general and the attorney general’s office requested that we not investigate. And that’s the key, isn’t it? Because that is the decision we made from the start.”
He added that the decision to use a third-party investigator was made after “we learned more about the individual circumstances.” Wentworth didn’t elaborate on when this third-party investigator was being pursued, saying that due to the nature of the ongoing investigation, he “would not get into specific situations.”
Chatfield, a former Speaker of the Michigan House and lawmaker from 2015 to 2020, is accused of involvement in a “criminal enterprise” as part of court documents erroneously released in October. That filing also alleges that the ex-legislator may also have been involved in embezzlement, bribery, use of controlled substances and campaign finance violations during his tenure.
His behavior is currently under investigation by the Department of Attorney General in cooperation with the Michigan State Police. That investigation began in February 2022 when his sister-in-law, Rebekah Chatfield, accused ex-lawmakers of sexually abusing her since she was a minor.
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A request for comment from the Department of Attorney General to confirm whether they did in fact ask the House of Representatives to delay an independent investigation into Chatfield was not returned in time for publication.
Members of the House Democratic Caucus, particularly House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township, have been vocal about a lack of progress in the lower chamber on an inquiry.
In late October, Lasinski himself said an investigation into the ex-speaker would be swift and inevitable should Democrats win the House of Representatives.
“I think you can rest assured that this issue is not going to die as we, as Democrats, take the majority. We’re going to have these hearings. We’ll look at it,” she said during an Oct. 21 taping of WKAR’s Off the Record. “It is important that we work with transparency and accountability. This culture of corruption and this game that the Republicans have been playing for two sessions now — running out of time and then saying, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter because they’re not here anymore’ — it’s not working.”
Wentworth said it’s such rhetoric that he finds disappointing, saying Democrats are simply interested in “playing politics in a situation like this,” adding, “I think what the House Democrats are doing is quite sad…there are real victims here.”
“I will fully cooperate … to make sure victims are met and to make sure everyone who is possible is brought to justice,” he said. “And I firmly believe that we are doing the right thing.”
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