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House committee takes first step to subpoena ex-health director

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Posted at 8:22 PM, Apr 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-15 22:31:43-04

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s House Oversight Committee took the first step in granting themselves subpoena power to get former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon to testify over why he abruptly left his post in January.

Gordon’s departure has been under scrutiny after a $155,000 separation agreement was uncovered, which required Gordon and Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration to maintain confidentiality about what led to him leaving.

The confidentiality clause was eventually waived, but Gordon nor Whitmer have provided any additional details, other than the governor saying there were, “not any improprieties in Director Gordon’s work.”

House Oversight Chair Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) has asked Gordon to testify several times by writing and is now formally seeking subpoena power with a resolution.

For the public health director during a public health pandemic to resign in a very strange way, was he fired? Was it voluntary? No one really knew.” Johnson said. “Then we see there's a confidentiality agreement, there are a lot of unknowns there and so I think it's important for us to ask those questions to get those questions answered.”

Democratic committee members took exception to the resolution, saying there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

“I'm not sure that we really dignify the process of government by getting into the weeds on something that was probably an angry event that happened on a real serious disagreement but about policy, and we have no reason to think it was about anything that would cause us alarm,” State Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids) said.

LaGrand abstained from the final vote, which came down 6-2 on party lines.

The resolution now moves to a full vote, where it's expected to pass the Republican-led House. The House Oversight Committee will then have to hold a separate vote to subpoena the former health director.