The Michigan House of Representatives is making moves to subpoena former health director Robert Gordon after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) secured a confidentiality agreement barring any comment about his official tenure.
State Rep. Steve Johnson (R), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, introduced House Resolution 60, which would grant his committee the power to subpoena the former appointee.
Johnson previously invited Gordon to appear voluntarily, but Gordon declined.
On Thursday, Whitmer and Gordon announced he had been released from the confidentiality provision preventing him from speaking publicly.
“Due to weeks of public pressure, Governor Whitmer and former Director Gordon announced that they are waiving the confidentiality portion of their separation agreement,” Johnson said in a statement.
“Yet, we received a letter from Gordon this morning stating that he will not testify before our committee and failed to answer our questions,” he said.
“On occasion, there were robust conversations about policy issues where reasonable people could disagree and did. This was healthy: The stakes were life and death, and different people have different roles,” Gordon wrote in the letter, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Gordon said he intended his letter to represent his testimony to the committee.
“What is the point of removing the confidentiality section of the agreement if you still refuse to testify? This is a disingenuous head fake at transparency and the House Oversight Committee is committed to holding public officials accountable,” Johnson said.
Granting subpoena power to the committee requires a simple majority vote. It already has the power to compel documents, but not individuals.
Gordon resigned abruptly in January from leading the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Whitmer awkwardly refused to provide details repeatedly. Reports emerged in March that Gordon had secured a $155,000 settlement Republicans deemed “hush money.”
The appointee assumed the role of issuing coronavirus-related edicts after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in October that Whitmer’s nearly 200 executive orders were unconstitutional.
“The public deserves to know what happened between the governor and MDHHS that led to Robert Gordon’s abrupt resignation,” Johnson said in the news release.
“Transparency surrounding issues that led to the resignation of the public health department director in the middle of a health pandemic should be of the utmost importance,” he said, adding the committee “will continue to take the legal steps necessary to hear from former Director Gordon.”