Embattled Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who faced backlash for her overbearing COVID-19 shutdown orders, and who is now facing scrutiny for her COVID-19 nursing home policies, has a new issue to contend with: growing calls for transparency from her administration.
“Michigan is not just out of the mainstream. We’re out of the universe, basically, on limiting the access for our citizens to better know how its government works,” state Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) told Michigan Live.
According to that report, the Center for Public Integrity ranked Michigan dead last in the country for transparency in 2015, and little has changed under Whitmer’s administration, despite her campaign promises.
She ran on what she called the “Sunshine Plan” to increase transparency in government. But that has not panned out, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the last year, Whitmer has back-pedaled on a no-bid contact-tracing contract that went to a Democratic firm, temporarily relaxed the state’s [Freedom of Information Act] laws due to the virus and subjected the state’s former health chief to a confidentiality clause around his separation,” Michigan Live said.
Calls for transparency have been renewed after what was perhaps Whitmer’s most egregious act of secrecy yet. She has been widely criticized for confidentiality agreements between her administration and state employees who have abruptly departed their positions.
The most high-profile example is Robert Gordon, former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) resigned abruptly on February 22.
He received $155,000 from Michigan taxpayers in severance upon his departure, but was bound to silence by a confidentiality agreement.
State Rep. Steve Johnson (R-MI-72), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, blasted Whitmer and MDHHS for their secrecy.
“I am calling on the Department today to release to the public the separation agreement between Governor Whitmer’s administration and former MDHHS Director Robert Gordon as well as any other similar agreements made with other public officials,” that letter said.
“In light of the recent details of the separation agreement which included a cash bonus to preserve confidentiality, I believe it is only right for the public to know what that agreement included which ultimately led to Robert Gordon’s abrupt departure earlier this year,” Johnson’s letter continued.
In response, Whitmer doubled down, signing an executive order saying that such severance arrangements can continue.
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