Lawmaker parties as lawsuit against him dragged on

Nearly two years ago, Problem Solver M.L. Elrick revealed that a former aid had sued State Representative Brian Banks for sexual harassment. Last year, that suit was settled but Elrick still has questions he wants answered.

Banks maintains he didn't do anything wrong. However, the entire ordeal cost taxpayers nearly $100,000. While both sides slugged it out in court, banks kept his nose to the grindstone: he held health fairs, a Christmas party for constituents, and an education forum. Oh and he also found time to cruise around the Sunshine State in his Rolls Royce.

Let's back up. In 2013, Banks got himself and the state sued after firing Tramaine Cotton.

Cotton is a promoter of often risque parties who was looking for an easy job with good pay and benefits  when then-Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh told him to call Banks. He hired Cotton as an aide and then, according to Cotton, began sexually harassing his new employee.

"There was one bed inside the hotel, so you want me to sleep with you? It was just too much," Cotton said.

Bank denies the accusations and says he canned Cotton because he didn't have a valid driver's license. Banks says he learned that after the Warren cop who arrested Cotton called Banks. The cop said in 2013 that Banks tried to help Cotton and even acted like an old pal.

"He first told me that he knew me because he was a prosecutor from Macomb County. I may not remember him, but he was a lawyer, and he's seen me in court before, and he knew that I was on the road," the undercover officer said.

The lawsuit worked its way through the courts and it was settled in October at a cost of more than $85,000 to the state's taxpayers. Cotton and his lawyer got nearly $12,000.

But Banks wasn't required to pay any of the settlement money - despite being sued as well. A spokesman for House Speaker Kevin Cotter says the speaker figured it would be cheaper for the state to foot the bill than risk losing in court.

So what was Banks up to in the meantime and what did he have to say about the settlement? M.L. Elrick is tenacious and tracked him down - after he got back from South Beach.

Banks released this statement regarding the Cotton lawsuit and a museum birthday party. Read them both below:

Banks' statement on Cotton lawsuit:

I asked Rep. Brian Banks (D-Detroit) to meet with me back in January to discuss the resolution of the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by a former aide. Banks would not make an appointment and, instead, sent this statement:

"Thank you for contacting me on Friday. Unfortunately, whenever a lawsuit is brought there is a cost associated with litigating and defending it. However, I am glad this matter is closed and I look forward to serving the people of the State of Michigan."

Banks' statement on birthday party:

The spokeswoman for Democrats serving in the House of Representatives contacted me on behalf of Rep. Brian Banks. I again asked for an opportunity to sit down with the lawmaker. It never happened. But the spokeswoman, Katie Carey, provided the following response to some of the questions I had for Banks:

"I did not pay for the event in question. My family and friends held a private event to celebrate my birthday that had nothing to do with my official capacity as a state representative. They wanted to have that birthday party at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History because of its history and to recognize and celebrate my accomplishments over the past few years. Since taking office I have held (2) monthly coffee hours each month with the exception of January for a total of 66 standing coffee hours, (4) bi-monthly event coffee hours each year for a total of 12 evening coffee hours, over 10 town hall meetings, and have only missed one day of session since taking office in 2013 and that was to attend a conference. Finally, many legislators host private events that do not garner such attention from the press and I'm hopeful we can return to the task at hand of ensuring the city of Flint has access to safe, clean drinking water and dealing with the deplorable conditions of schools in the Detroit Public School system."