Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has found herself in hot water after her administration agreed to pay former state Health Department Director Robert Gordon more than $150,000 in taxpayer money after he abruptly resigned his position in January.
The deal, which was first reported by the Detroit News, was made with the requirement that it remain confidential.
What are the details?
According to the Detroit News, Gordon was paid $155,506, a total of nine months salary and health benefits, in agreement for releasing the state “from any potential legal claims.”
“The agreement is the clearest evidence yet that the split between Gordon … and Whitmer was not amicable, and it shows the Democratic administration used taxpayer funds to ease his departure,” the Detroit News reported.
The deal was inked on Feb. 22, one month after Gordon, who helped coordinate Michigan’s COVID-19 pandemic response, abruptly left his job.
The separation agreement stipulates that, out of the interest of confidentiality, the state would tell Gordon’s future employers that he voluntarily resigned.
Why did Gordon resign?
The actual reason remains unknown.
Interestingly, Gordon resigned just hours after signing a pandemic-related order allowing restaurants to begin offering indoor dining at reduced capacity. Gordon was not present at the press conference that announced the resumption of indoor dining.
Whitmer’s administration had been using Gordon to issue its pandemic-related emergency orders because the Michigan Supreme Court ruled last October that Whitmer had violated the Michigan state constitution by continuing to issue highly restrictive COVID orders without approval from state lawmakers.
What was the reaction to the deal?
Republicans are using news of the secret deal to draw more attention to Whitmer’s handling of the pandemic.
Rep. Steve Johnson (R), chairman of the Michigan House Oversight Committee, told Fox News:
We’re still investigating the things the Whitmer Administration has done during COVID in plain sight, when we find out about a secret payoff behind closed doors. While it doesn’t surprise me, the deception is shocking and shows how badly this Administration needs oversight so they can be held to account.
Meanwhile, the Michigan Republican Party wants to know what Whitmer is trying to hide by keeping the deal secret.
“Mr. Robert Gordon was the state’s health director and played an instrumental role in the state’s COVID-19 response. Michigan taxpayers deserve to know the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Mr. Gordon in the middle of a public health crisis,” Ted Goodman, spokesman for the Michigan GOP, said.
“Why is Gov. Whitmer refusing to explain this secret deal?” Goodman added.
“What is @GovWhitmer trying to hide?” the Michigan GOP tweeted.
News of the deal comes as Republicans demand an investigation into Whitmer’s pandemic response, particularly as it relates to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.