A Democrat Michigan state representative told constituents the string of settlements Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has approved with former appointees is “concerning.”
The Detroit News reported Whitmer’s administration secured settlement agreements with top appointees, including former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon; his former deputy, Sarah Esty; and former director of the state Unemployment Insurance Agency, Steve Gray.
Republicans have deemed the settlements “hush money” to people formerly in the Whitmer administration to prevent them from talking about their experiences there. Combined, they totaled over $250,000.
State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D) fielded a question about the payments during a virtual meeting with residents:
— Michigan Rising Action (@MIRisingAction) March 9, 2021
“What on earth is going on around the governor paying people when they quit or quit,” Pohutsky read, adding air quotes. “It sounds like both sides of the aisle are not happy,” she said.
Pohutsky was referring to revelations about Gordon, who abruptly resigned under mysterious circumstances with Whitmer refusing to provide details.
It was later revealed Gordon received a separation agreement worth $155,506 with the condition he would not speak publicly about his time in the administration.
“It’s concerning, to say the least, I’m not going to sugar coat it,” Pohutsky answered.
She claimed she is “not a lawyer,” but said, “I get why people aren’t happy.”
Pohutsky said Whitmer was paying out the remainder of Gordon’s contract.
“I guess that makes sense,” she said.
Pohutsky then addressed the news that Gordon’s deputy, Sarah Etsy, also received a settlement.
“I do not know. I do not understand. I find it concerning. I assume this will be discussed in the Oversight Committee this term,” she said, adding she is “not in the business of sugar coating things or defending things that I don’t find defensible.”
The Michigan House Oversight Committee has invited Gordon to testify about the agreement.
“It is extremely troubling that our state government has become one of the least transparent in the country,” committee chairman state Rep. Steve Jonson (R) said.
“Specifically, I have reached out to the DHHS on multiple occasions to receive data that the department claimed was incredibly accurate, yet never received it,” he said.
Johnson said he believes Robert Gordon’s testimony “is vital to discovering the truth behind his abrupt resignation and the recent lack of transparency from the DHHS.”