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Former state health department Director Robert Gordon addresses his secret agreement with state

Posted at 6:33 PM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 18:47:20-04

LANSING, Mich. — Both Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office and Robert Gordon, the former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, are waiving a confidentiality clause in a separation agreement after weeks of criticism.

Robert Gordon abruptly resigned from his post at the state’s health department in January as the COVID pandemic was ravaging the state..

Robert Gordon
FILE- In a Dec. 18, 2020 file photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Robert Gordon addresses the state in Lansing, Mich. On Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 Gordon resigned his position. He made the announcement without explanation Friday, just hours after signing a revised order to allow restaurants to resume indoor dining on Feb. 1. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP, File)

The move raised many eyebrows when it was revealed that he would be paid nine months salary as part of a severance agreement, a sum over $150,000.

Critics have been calling for an accounting of what triggered the separation.

On Wednesday, both parties agreed to waive a portion of the agreement.

State Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Wayland, is leading the effort to get Gordon to answer questions

Severance Agreement

Thursday, Gordon responded to with a one-page letter, saying in part that he has returned to civilian life and his departure centered around policy disagreements.

Gordon also wrote that Whitmer deserves a someone in that role that she feels comfortable with.

Republicans lauded the waivers as a move in the right direction but Cooley Law School professor Mark Dotson says that doesn't necessarily mean both sides can speak freely.

Professor Mark Dotson, WMU Cooley Law School

“What also is probably associated with the confidentiality agreement is the non-disparagement agreement which nobody seems to be giving any attention to right now. Which would preclude either of the two entities from disparaging one another on the way out,“ said Dotson.

There's been no talk about whether Whitmer and Gordon have a non-disparagement clause in place but it's clear that some lawmakers want more information and are looking to force the issue by compelling Gordon to testify before the state House.

Right now, Johnson is asking for the full House’s power to be implemented so that he can subpoena testimony in this case.

Other lawmakers are calling for transparency in a similar case involving the former director of the state Unemployment Insurance Agency.