Former Michigan Health Director Submits to Subpoena, Testifies to House Oversight Committee over $155,000 Severance Payment

After declining four previous requests to testify, former Michigan Director of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon was finally compelled to testify Thursday before the House Oversight Committee.

Gordon abruptly resigned his position in January, and signed a controversial nondisclosure agreement the following month that included a $155,506 buyout. The Oversight Committee issued Gordon a subpoena earlier this month, forcing him to appear before the committee.

The subpoena was the first issued by the Oversight Committee in 30 years, according to Rep. Patrick Outman, R-Six Lakes.

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House Committee Subpoenas Former MDHHS Director over Secret Settlement

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. 

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Gov. Whitmer Allows Stadiums at 20 Percent Capacity; Still Mum on Former Health Director’s Resignation

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration issued a new order requiring COVID-19 testing for all 13-19-year-old athletes before each game and practice.

In her first news conference after Whitmer and former state health director Robert Gordon waived their confidentiality clause in Gordon’s $155,506 taxpayer funded separation package, Whitmer still dodged two direct questions.

Whitmer insisted she has “nothing to hide” but gave no new details about the resignation.

“I have said all I am going to say about Director Gordon’s departure,” she said.

Whitmer’s new order will allow outdoor stadiums to open at 20% capacity if the venue follows certain protocols. The order comes less than two weeks ahead of the April 1 Detroit Tigers opening day at Comerica Park.

For Comerica Park, that means it can allow roughly 8,200 fans if it:

Establishes an infection control plan that complies with the the state health department’s Enhanced Outdoor Stadium and Arena Guidance
Posts the mitigation plan publicly
Sends infection control plans to the local health department and MDHHS at least seven days before scheduled events.
Administers a testing program following the Guidance for Athletics
“We truly appreciate the ongoing partnership with the Governor’s office and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. We are thrilled to safely welcome back the best fans in baseball to Comerica Park for Opening Day and beyond,” Illitch Holdings Group President of Sports and Entertainment Chris Granger said in a statement. “As the season progresses, we look forward to continued coordination with public health and medical experts, government officials and Major League Baseball to ensure a safe and enjoyable environment for all Detroit Tigers fans.”

The loosened restrictions follow as more Michiganders get vaccinated. Michigan has injected over 3 million vaccines, continuing to reach for its goal of vaccinating 70% of Michigander’s ages 16 and older.

“Last week’s numbers are a reality check that COVID-19 is not yet behind us,” Whitmer said in a Friday morning news conference. “We may be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re still in the tunnel.”

The push to ramp up vaccinations aims to stem the spread of multiple COVID-19 variants and depress rising COVID-19 case numbers.

About 756 cases of the U.K COVID-19 variant have been reported in Michigan, while seven of the South African variant have been reported.

“You’ll have a summer of fun ahead if we can all get vaccinated,” Whitmer said of small July 4 celebrations.

Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun warned Michigan is headed in the “wrong direction” in COVID-19 data after four weeks of case increases. The COVID-19 positivity rate has increased to 6.2%, an increase from mid-February but down from the December high of 19.4%.

Hospital capacity dedicated to COVID-19 is now at 4.9%, down from a December high of  19.6%.

Under the new epidemic order, Michiganders ages 13-19 can’t practice or compete in sports unless they participate in a stringent testing program starting April 2.

The order aims to battle 315 reported outbreaks associated with high school sports, officials said.

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Whitmer Executive Order Says Secret Severance Pay Packages for State Employees Can Continue

In defiance of calls for transparency from state lawmakers, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, is doubling down on the state’s policy of providing secretive severance packages to state officials.

In an executive directive, Whitmer states that agreements and payments can be used for a variety of purposes:

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. (emphasis added)

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer Administration Gave Former MEDC CEO Jeff Mason a $128,500 Severance Payout

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration paid former CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) Jeff Mason $128,500 –26 weeks of pay – to “retire” last year.

The Detroit News reported Mason’s deal was among eight other employees separated from MEDC, bringing the total cost of payouts to $308,623 over the last four years. Those agreements included non-disparagement clauses limiting ex-employees from diminishing the MEDC’s reputation.

However, agency employees said the deals weren’t funded by taxpayer money.

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Michigan Republican House Rep Calls for Transparency in Former MDHHS Separation Deal

A Republican member of the state House of Representatives is calling for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to reveal to the public the agreement it had with former director Robert Gordon, who abruptly resigned on February 22. 

“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,” state Rep. Steve Johnson (R-MI-72) said in Tuesday letter to MDHHS. 

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer’s Ex-MDHHS Director Got $155,500-Taxpayer-Funded Payout to Leave Quietly

When state health director Robert Gordon abruptly resigned in January, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer didn’t mention his $155,506-taxpayer-funded payout.

That sum was equal to nine months of Gordon’s annual salary and health benefits. The monies received by Gordon release the state from any potential legal claims.

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Michigan Health Director Resigns as Restaurants Set to Reopen

The top health official in Michigan has abruptly resigned as the state plans to reopen restaurants in the coming weeks, after months of strict lockdown orders.

“Today, I am resigning from the Whitmer Administration. It’s been an honor to serve alongside wonderful colleagues. I look forward to the next chapter,” Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon said Friday on Twitter. 

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Michigan Senate Passes Bill Aiming to Limit Epidemic Orders to 28 Days Without Additional Approval

The Michigan Senate on Thursday night approved a bill 22-16 along party lines that aims to limit the state health department’s epidemic order power.

SB 1253, if signed into law, would amend the Public Health Code so Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Robert Gordon’s epidemic orders would be only valid for up to 28 days unless both houses of the Legislature approves Gordon’ extension request.

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State Requires Restaurants to Get Customer Contact Information for Dine-in Starting Monday

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is imposing more restrictions on indoor areas beginning Monday.

“The only way to beat COVID is to act on what we’ve learned since March,” MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said in a statement. “Wear masks. Keep six feet of distance. Wash hands. And avoid the indoor get-togethers where we have seen COVID explode.”

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Michigan Health Director Says Contact Tracing Contract a Mistake, but Not Politically Motivated

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Robert Gordon on Thursday said approving a Democrat-connected firm for contact tracing was a mistake, but not politically motivated.

Gordon said MDHHS first had local health departments attempt contact tracing but those agencies didn’t have enough resources, requiring MDHHS to seek a vendor.

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Emergency Order Accelerates Notification to the State of Coronavirus Deaths in Michigan

An emergency order was issued late Saturday by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) that shortens the length of time coroner and funeral staff have to notify state officials when someone dies of COVID-19 to 24 hours.

“MDHHS is committed to protecting the public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why I am issuing this emergency order,” MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said said in a statement.

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