Following a backlash, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state’s former health director agreed this week to waive a confidentiality clause related to a $155,000 severance deal amid the official's abrupt resignation in January.
The departure, which Robert Gordon announced Jan. 22, coupled with his hefty payout raised concerns in the media and with state lawmakers, prompting Whitmer, a Democrat, to revoke the clause Thursday "in the interest of greater transparency," FOX 2 of Detroit reported.
Gordon resigned the day after he issued an order to allow indoor dining to resume, WDIV-TV in Detroit reported.
Neither Whitmer nor Gordon have given the reason for his departure but his successor, Elizabeth Hertel, intimated that Whitmer and Gordon may have had a difference of opinion about coronavirus orders.
State Republicans want to question Gordon about the nature of his departure.
"A lot of these decisions are not based on science and data," Republican state Rep. Matt Hall said, according to FOX 2. "They're based on politics and one way we can get to the bottom of that is by asking Robert Gordon more questions about his time at the department and what led to his departure. What type of disagreements potentially led to that?"
Gordon wrote a one-page letter to the state’s House Oversight Committee investigating the resignation but has not agreed to testify.
He said there were "healthy" and "robust conversations about policy issues where reasonable people could disagree and did," adding the conversations had "strong outcomes" where the coronavirus was concerned, namely a lowered death rate in the state.
The governor "deserves a health director with whom she is comfortable. I tendered my resignation, and she accepted it," he wrote.
Republican state Rep. Steven Johnson, chairman of the oversight committee, has promised to issue subpoenas and examine records related to any severance agreements in the Whitmer administration.
Ted Goodman, a state Republican Party spokesman, said "Michiganders deserve to know why Mr. Gordon left, and why a confidentiality agreement was required in the first place."
Republicans in the state also wanted Whitmer investigated over her handling of pandemic nursing home deaths -- but state Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, denied that request Monday.
Still, Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, a liberal advocacy group, noted the state’s Republican-led legislature has had 30 severance deals totaling more than $630,000 and $60,000 in legal settlements in the past 10 years of which details have not been released.
Scott said GOP lawmakers are more interested in "one-way glass than they are in true transparency," according to WDIV.