Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) could be facing a growing scandal similar to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Both governors forced nursing homes in their state to take in COVID-positive patients.
Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido is contemplating bringing charges against Whitmer for any of the deaths associated with the decision. The problem, however, is HIPAA laws prevent the prosecutor's office from receiving vital information about a patient's death. The only way Lucido's office would receive the information is if a relative lodged a wrongful death complaint with the local police department.
In order for charges to be brought about, family members have to request data and additional information surrounding the person's death. It's something Lucido is encouraging family members to do if a loved one died.
“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," Lucido told WXYZ-TV. "Of course, we would. Nobody’s above the law in this state.”
Lucido began investigating the policy decision last year when he served as a state senator. In August, he disclosed that more than 2,000 residents and 21 staff members died in nursing homes. Those numbers make up 32 percent of the state's COVID deaths.
As a state senator, Lucido asked Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) and the U.S. attorney to investigate. Nessel's office said there was no basis for an investigation and the U.S. attorney's office is still digging into the matter.
But there's something else that doesn't pass the smell test: the now-former state health department director, Robert Gordon, resigned without explanation on Feb. 22. It was disclosed that he was given severance pay of $155,506, which included nine months of salary and health care benefits. Both Gordon and the Whitmer administration signed a nondisclosure agreement.
The severance pay looks suspicious, especially after the Michigan State Supreme Court blocked Whitmer's coronavirus executive orders as unconstitutional. Gordon quickly stepped in and issued emergency health orders which kept the majority of Whitmer's restrictions in place.
Whitmer's office responded to Lucido's claims, calling them "shameful political attacks."
Our top priority from the start has been protecting Michiganders, especially seniors and our most vulnerable. The administration’s policies carefully tracked CDC guidance on nursing homes, and we prioritized testing of nursing home residents and staff 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 resident 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.
Mr. Lucido’s comments are shameful political attacks based in neither fact nor reality. Even his former colleague, Republican Sen. Ed McBroom, has said they "have not seen any evidence or testimony that says that a nursing home was forced to take someone against their will." And there’s a reason why Mr. Lucido’s colleagues have publicly rebuked this politically-motivated waste of taxpayer dollars. Michiganders are tired of these petty partisan games, and we won’t be distracted by them either.
Regardless of what took place, Michiganders deserve to know the full impact of Whitmer's nursing home decision.