DETROIT – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made major changes in the state’s COVID-19 response on Tuesday increasing restaurant capacity and allowing more nursing home visits.
However, questions surrounding the departure of former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director, Robert Gordon, the man Whitmer depended on throughout much of this pandemic are growing.
The Michigan legislature is watching a number of things including what is happening in New York with its governor Andrew Cuomo and his nursing home scandal.
It is also taking a closer look at Gordon’s abrupt resignation, another of his deputies resignations, and their non-disclosure agreements with big payouts.
Gordon’s departure came out of nowhere Jan. 22.
His $155,000 plus settlement signed last week covers nine months of his pay plus Cobra health benefits.
The governor did not say much about it at her news conference Tuesday.
Legislators have a lot to say about the situation. Michigan state representative, Steve Johnson, is calling the settlement hush money.
He asked, “It is a public official being bought off with taxpayer money. What I want to know is what are they hiding?”
Republican legislators suspect nursing home death numbers are too low.
MDHHS is reporting 5,523 nursing home residents have died since the pandemic started, roughly a third of the state’s total deaths.
Michigan State Sen. Jim Runstead believes placing the COVID positive patients in the same building as the nursing home residents who were negative for the virus caused much more serious damage.
“Thousands of families have lost individuals and they want to know whether their loved ones were lost to COVID because of the policies of the governor in the State of Michigan. We’re not getting the answers but we are going to get the answers,” said Runstead.
On Tuesday Gordon issued a statement on his role and departure.
“It was an honor to be chosen as the director of the Department of Health and Human Services by governor Whitmer. Under her leadership and alongside thousands of outstanding public employees, we accomplished a lot,” said Gordon.
“Since the pandemic began, many leadership changes have happened in other states. It’s no surprise they would happen in Michigan. I am grateful to have served.”
According to a business insider survey last year Whitmer made just under $160,000 a year.
She took a cut as part of the COVID pandemic dropping her pay to $142,000, a total of $13,000 less than the money Gordon is walking away with.