Michigan Republicans Demand Answers on State Health Director’s “Golden Parachute”
Where’s the data? Where’s the transparency? How and why were decisions about nursing homes and restaurant lockdowns made in Michigan? Those are some of the questions that GOP legislators want answers to from the Whitmer administration.
Marshall State Rep. Matt Hall, State Sen. Jim Runestad, and additional state legislators hosted a press conference outside the steps of the State Capitol Building in Lansing on Tuesday. During the press conference, they demanded answers from Governor Gretchen Whitmer after a Detroit News story revealed a secret deal with former Health Director Robert Gordon was paid a 9-month, $155,000 severance, with the stipulation that he would not talk about why he mysteriously left the administration.
Sen. Runestad said, “We have a situation here in Michigan that parallels what happened in New York City. A lack of transparency, a situation where the governor put nursing home patients with covid infections in with non-infected patients.” Runestad said we have a situation where 45 other governors have stated they would never do that. He said the health care association in Michigan that represents nursing homes sent a letter to Whitmer on March 13th, asking her to put those patients in a field hospital, but she rejected that.
Runestad said that State House oversight committee chairman Steve Johnson has asked the acting Health Director to come in and testify, but she has refused. He says they are asking Attorney General Dana Nessel to do a non-partisan investigation, as her counterpart in New York has done.
State Rep. Matt Hall said he was very disappointed in Governor Whitmer on Tuesday, as members of the media were asking her questions about the deal with Gordon but didn’t get any. “All we want is for her to explain it. Why are you giving these payments to Robert Gordon to silence him? Gretchen Whitmer stood up here in front of the capital a few years ago and called it a ‘golden parachute’ when former Governor Rick Snyder paid someone for a few weeks after they left. Now we're talking 9 months.”
Rep. Steve Johnson said his committee has reached out to the Department of Health for information but has been stonewalled so far, and none have agreed to testify before the committee. He says they are working with legal counsel, and if they have to issue subpoenas, they will.
Sen. Runestad was asked if the deal might hold up legislative confirmation of Governor Whitmer’s appointment of Elizabeth Hertel to be the next State Health Director. “It absolutely does, and we are going to be having a lot of very pointed questions on Thursday in the Advise and Consent committee.”
Johnson says he believes the legislature will soon pass laws to extend the Freedom of Information Act to the legislature and the governor’s office. “This situation has highlighted the need for this much-needed reform.”
Meanwhile, Michiganders cannot receive extended unemployment benefits thanks to her veto.