Republican legislators in Michigan are moving forward with an investigation into Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's (D) nursing home policies throughout the coronavirus pandemic. They previously asked state Attorney General Dana Nessel to conduct an investigation, but she declined, saying there was no merits behind an investigation.
State Sen. Jim Runestad told FOX 2 that the House Oversight Committee's hearings, lawsuits and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests have been blatantly ignored. Because of that, the committee is hiring a special prosecutor to conduct an investigation into Whitmer's nursing home practices. The committee also plans to issue subpoenas in an effort to gain additional information on the accuracy of nursing home data, compliance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and compliance with Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.
“Just like New York, Michigan was one of five states whose executive orders forced nursing homes to take COVID-19-positive patients into the same facilities as our most vulnerable seniors,” the state senator said in a statement. “Grieving families deserve to know why this happened, how it was allowed to happen, and why the administration refuses to release nursing home COVID-19 data.
Throughout the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, Whitmer followed the same protocols as Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee and New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo. All three ordered nursing homes to take in COVID-positive patients where otherwise healthy, elderly people resided. Runestad said, in some cases, "proper precautions" weren't followed when nursing homes did take in patients infected with the virus.
"This is a real issue as to why was that done, what were the ramifications, and what is the data," he said. "We are not going to get that, at least from the attorney general."
Former State Senator Peter Lucido (who now serves as Macomb County Prosecutor) conducted an investigation into Whitmer's policies. 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.
Both Runestad and Lucido have encouraged family members of those who died as a result of the nursing home policy to file a report with their local police department.
"What I would say in the meantime until we get subpoena power, or get a special prosecutor, every family member listening to this report who had a family member die, make a report at their local police department," Runestad said. "If we get enough of those - that would get the prosecutors involved in individual counties."
If a report is filed and the investigation determines Whitmer's policies resulted in people's deaths, Lucido said he has no problems filing charges against the governor.
“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.”
What makes Whitmer's policies even fishier: 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.
Journalist Charlie LeDuff is also in the process of suing the Whitmer administration for documents pertaining to her nursing home policies.