LANSING, Mich. (FOX 2) - Republican lawmakers demanding answers after revelations that the former director of the state's health department signed what they're calling a secret deal after state health director Robert Gordon's abrupt resignation from his post in January.
"That is a public official being bought off with taxpayer dollars - what I want to know is - what are they hiding," said State Sen. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland). "This looks like a hush-money payment."
"Why did you do this? I mean, this looks like a hush-money payment," said Rep. Matt Hall (R-Emmett Twp.).
"There's been no transparency from this administration - they have failed the people in the state of Michigan," Johnson added.
Gordon's confidentiality agreement and a $155,000 payout he received is now under investigation by the oversight committee. They want answers about the state's policies they say have led to more than 24,000 residents in long-term care facilities being infected with COVID-19.
More than 5,500 have died.
Republican State Rep. Steve Johnson.
"There are hundreds of families - thousands of families - that have lost individuals and they want to know was my loved one lost to Covid because of the policies of the governor here in the state of Michigan," said State Sen. Jim Runestad (R-WHITE LAKE).
"We have an executive - a cabinet member - during this time, who is being paid to not talk, and he knows a lot about how these decisions are made," Hall said.
FOX 2 Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick asked Governor Gretchen Whitmer about the payment at Tuesday's news conference.
Skubick: "Was it hush money?"
"Tim, I really bristle at that characterization," Whitmer said. "It is the nature of a separation agreement when somebody in a leadership position leaves, is that, there are terms to it and you can't share every term to it. And that's simply what it is."
Former state health director Robert Gordon.
But Republican lawmakers say it's not simple at all.
"Why are you giving these payments to Robert Gordon, to silence him?" Hall said. "This makes it seem like there's a lot more to this story - I know the people of Michigan are demanding answers and we're going to fight for them."
Lawmakers have asked Attorney General Dana Nessel to launch an independent investigation - a spokesperson says they are reviewing the request.