Michigan government to review use of separation agreements

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Michigan departments will reconsider their use of separation agreements, a practice that sparked considerable outrage after the disclosure of a $ 155,000 deal with a confidentiality clause for the former director of the health department.

In an email to department heads on Friday afternoon, Michigan operations manager Trish Foster hinted that there may be changes in how these deals are done going forward.

“In the coming weeks, you will receive advice on handling separation agreements with government employees in the future,” read the email provided to Free Press.

“These guidelines will not replace any rules or regulations provided by the Michigan Civil Service Commission, but rather allow us to review our practices and procedures in support of our dedicated state employees and the work they do every day to. the Michigan State Account. ”

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Foster’s email stated that many, if not all, departments had received Freedom of Information Act requests asking for more information about the separation agreements. The governor’s office is exempt from Michigan’s Open Records Act, but state departments are not.

Earlier this week, the Free Press and others reported that Robert Gordon would receive around nine months of salary and healthcare costs under a separation agreement signed on February 22. Gordon abruptly resigned on January 22. He and Governor Gretchen Whitmer declined to say exactly why he left.

In return for payment, the agreement stipulated that neither Gordon nor the state would discuss the nature of his departure, “in the interest of protecting deliberations among government officials.”

At least two other government officials – former Unemployment Insurance Agency chief Steve Gray and deputy health department director Sarah Esty – have also received deals after quitting their jobs in the state. It is not known how many other deals were made during Whitmer’s tenure as governor.

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The deals caused a substantial backlash from lawmakers this week. Republicans in the state House and Senate have called for inquiries, calling the payment agreements “secret money.” At least one Republican is trying to change part of the state budget to ban similar payments in the future.

In a hearing Thursday considering the appointment of Gordon’s successor Elizabeth Hertel, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, also asked several questions about Gordon’s departure.

Whitmer repeatedly avoided questions about the deal earlier this week. She argued that there was nothing she could discuss about the agreements, but said there were “no irregularities” in Gordon’s work.

Gordon released a statement online earlier this week saying the pandemic has been a grueling experience for him and his family.

“I have long served in government and believe elected CEOs should make final decisions on policy with confidential advice. They also need to be comfortable with agency heads,” Gordon said in the communicated.

Contact Dave Boucher at [email protected] or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @ Dave_Boucher1.


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