Whitmer signed $155K taxpayer-funded gag order with former health director

Whitmer signed $155K taxpayer-funded gag order with former health director

Lawmakers are threatening Whitmer with a subpoena over a secret golden parachute payout and gag order on former health department director Robert Gordon. And at least two similar, secret agreements have already come to light.

Former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director Robert Gordon abruptly resigned from his post Jan. 22 and received $155,506 in severance pay – but that money came with strings attached.

The severance agreement included a confidentiality agreement that bars Gordon from sharing any details about his departure, “unless required by law” to do so. As lawmakers continue to scrutinize Whitmer’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in nursing homes, the gag order on the former health director is cause for concern.

Following Gordon’s sudden resignation, Whitmer was asked about the departure during a press conference, including whether she asked him to resign. Whitmer refused to answer the questions. The agreement between Gordon and the state was signed Feb. 22 and covers nine months’ salary and health insurance payments.

Whitmer is now coming under fire from lawmakers for “taxpayer-financed hush money,” and calls for Whitmer to lift the gag order continue to intensify. “When it comes to state agencies responsible for decisions that put public safety and people’s lives and livelihoods on the line, the people of Michigan have every right to full disclosure and transparency,” said Rep. Annette Glenn, R-Midland.

Since news broke of the Gordon severance deal, two similar agreements have come to light.

Former director of the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency Steve Gray received more than $85,000 as part of a taxpayer-funded severance deal that included a confidentiality agreement. Gordon’s Deputy Director Sarah Etsy also got a severance deal worth roughly $11,600, but the smaller payment did not come with a confidentiality agreement attached.

Michigan Republicans are warning they may subpoena Whitmer to testify before the House Oversight Committee on the Gordon gag order and data related to nursing homes during her pandemic response.

“We want to know if what happened in New York, did that happen here? Can you show us that data? They refused to show us the data,” said Rep. Steve Johnson, who co-chairs the committee. “Now, last night we find out that our governor has bought the silence of former Director Gordon with $150,000 of taxpayer money.”

Regardless of political party, Michigan taxpayers always deserve full transparency on how their money is being spent. But that’s especially true when it comes to critical information about the state’s pandemic response.

To demand Whitmer stop these taxpayer-funded confidentiality agreements, sign the petition below.

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