Former Michigan health director says Whitmer asked him to resign after they disagreed on reopening restaurants

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Former MDHHS director Robert Gordon, left, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer. - STATE OF MICHIGAN
  • State of Michigan
  • Former MDHHS director Robert Gordon, left, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Michigan's former director of Health and Humans Services told the Legislature Thursday that Governor Gretchen Whitmer asked for his resignation after they disagreed over reopening restaurants.

Gordon was subpoenaed last week to testify before the House Oversight Committee because Republicans wanted to find out more about his $155,000 separation agreement with the state, which included a confidentiality clause.

"As you know, the morning that I resigned, we had announced a new order that reopened, effective Feb. 1, certain indoor settings. It's been reported that there was a difference of opinion in the days leading up to that order. From my perspective, it was a reasonable difference," Gordon said.

"I think this is a difference of opinion that was in a gray area, where I don't think there was a clear-eyed answer. That's why I made one recommendation, we reached another conclusion. I was quite comfortable signing the order."

Gordon said he was asked to meet with the governor virtually on Jan. 22, when Whitmer told him "it was time to go in a new direction." After Whitmer left the meeting, a member of her team asked Gordon if he wanted to resign.

Before his resignation, Michigan's restaurant lobby was suing Gordon for previous DHHS orders that closed restaurants, and protesters had appeared outside Gordon's home.

Cases of COVID-19 steadily climbed after Michigan allowed restaurants to reopen, and by April, Michigan had the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the nation.

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Earlier this month, Whitmer asked Michigan residents to voluntarily avoid dining indoors at restaurants, and Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, chief medical executive at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said dining indoors at restaurants "is simply not a safe thing to do right now."

Lawmakers questioned the constitutionality of Gordon's separation agreement, though the Legislature has also paid out more than $690,000 through more than 30 deals in the last decade.

Gordon said he stands by his advice, as well as the time he served in DHHS.

"When I reflect and when I think back on my service, I am very proud of my service. I have no regrets about serving Gov. Whitmer. I have no regrets about the advice I gave."

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