The saga over the departure and confidential settlement agreement between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and the former head of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) continued Thursday.
Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Steve Johnson (R-MI-72) announced in a press release that his committee has subpoenaed former MDHHS Director Robert Gordon, who received a $155,000 severance package from the state and signed a non-disclosure agreement after he left his post under murky circumstances late February.
“It is the responsibility of the Oversight Committee to ensure we provide answers to the people of Michigan. I am committed to ensuring a more transparent and honest government,” Johnson said in the release. “Agreements signed in the dark for exorbitant sums of money is neither transparent nor honest.”
In early March, he sent a letter to MDHHS requesting that they voluntarily release the details of the severance package.
“I am calling on the Department today to release to the public the separation agreement between Governor [Gretchen] Whitmer’s administration and former MDHHS Director Robert Gordon as well as any other similar agreements made with other public officials,” that letter said.
Whitmer has largely ignored the calls for transparency.
In fact, she signed an executive order in mid-March specifically allowing the state to continue to secretly sever its relationships with public employees.
“Separation agreements are used for many purposes, including to define the terms of employment during a period of transition; to secure the return of state property; and to mitigate legal exposure and potential costs to taxpayers through a release of claims against the state,” that order said.
Whitmer has faced criticism on many fronts during the COVID-19 pandemic, including excessive lockdown measures that caused her to be stripped of her emergency powers by the Michigan Supreme Court. Still, she has been running the COVID-19 response using MDHHS, an executive branch agency, as a conduit.
Despite its supposed safety measures, Michigan is one of the last states in the country facing a surge of COVID-19 cases, while other states that have returned to relative normalcy and relaxed pandemic protocols have not been overwhelmed with new cases or hospitalizations.
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