A prosecutor in Michigan suggested that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could face criminal charges over her handling of deaths at nursing homes in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic as the state attorney general launched a probe into the fatalities.
The news comes as Republicans in the Michigan legislature said they will hold hearings into a $155,000 confidential separation agreement made to former Health Department director Robert Gordon amid accusations that it may be a “hush payment.”
Macomb County prosecutor Peter Lucido said he’s unable to get information about the deaths at nursing homes and long-term care facilities because of strict laws that shield patients’ health care information.
“If we find there’s been willful neglect of office, if we find there’s been reckless endangerment of a person’s life by bringing them in, then we would move forward with charges against the Governor. Of course, we would. Nobody’s above the law in this state,” Lucido told ABC 7 WXYZ on Monday.
The questions surrounding Whitmer over the nursing home deaths are similar to the scandal swirling around New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that even before his mounting sexual harassment scandal had prompted calls for him to step down or be impeached.
The embattled governor is also dogged by accusations from five women that he sexually harassed them by inappropriately touching or kissing them, and by making improper comments to them.
Whitmer, in an interview on CNN Sunday, said she supports an independent investigation into her fellow Democratic governor.
“I think the allegations here are very serious and need to be taken seriously. And I do think that an impartial, thorough, independent investigation is merited and appropriate,” she said on “State of the Union.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel will examine the state coronavirus nursing home policies, according to ClickonDetroit.com.
Whitmer’s office blasted Lucido in a statement to WXYZ, calling his comments “shameful political attacks based in neither fact or reality.”
The statement also said Lucido’s Republican colleagues confirmed they “have not seen any evidence or testimony that says that a nursing home was forced to take someone against their will.”
Her office said the state “prioritized testing” of nursing home staff and residents “to save lives.”
“Early in the pandemic, the state acted swiftly to create a network of regional hubs with isolation units and adequate PPE to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within a facility. In addition, we have offered 100 percent of nursing home residents priority access to the vaccine. Both the former head of AARP, as well as an independent U-M study, praised our work to save lives in nursing homes,” the statement said.
Michigan House Oversight Chairman Steve Johnson, a Republican, said he wants answers from Whitmer on the nursing home deaths and the payment to the former health director.
“We have invited the department to come and testify before our oversight committee. They have refused to. We’ve asked them to share with us the data with the nursing home deaths. They refuse that. And now we see that the governor has paid the former health department director Robert Gordon $155,000 to stay quiet, which begs the question: what are they trying to hide,” he told Fox News.
He said Michigan, like New York, was among the states that “forced COVID patients” into nursing homes, “just like what you saw in New York, Gov. Cuomo.”
“That happened here, and they hid the numbers in New York and nursing home deaths, and that’s the question here, are they hiding the numbers,” Johnson said.
Whitmer denied that Gordon, who resigned in January, received a payment to stay quiet.
“I really bristle at that characterization. It is the nature of a separation agreement, when someone in a leadership position leaves … that there are terms to it and you can’t share every term to it. That’s simply what it is,” Whitmer told reporters at a news conference earlier this month, the Detroit Free Press reported.
But she would not address why Gordon resigned or why taxpayer money was used for a separation agreement that remains confidential.
Johnson said he had the same questions.
“This is not something that’s common, not something that we’ve seen here in state government before. If it is so common, then why weren’t they open to the public about it,” he said.
Whitmer’s office didn’t immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment about the nursing homes and the separation payment.