AG Won't Investigate Whitmer's Nursing Home Policies
March 16, 2021
By Jessica Mathews & Jon King / News@whmi.com
Citing a lack of evidence that any law was broken, Michigan’s Attorney General says she will not open an investigation into Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of COVID-19 patients in nursing homes.
There are allegations that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration falsified figures to downplay deaths in nursing homes and Michigan Republicans said they wanted to make sure that hadn't happened in Michigan.
“But the situation here is completely different,” Nessel, a Democrat, wrote to Sen. Jim Runestad of White Lake, who had asked for an investigation along with seven other GOP senators, including Lana Theis of Brighton Township. “I am aware that Gov. Whitmer’s office complied with the (Department of Justice) information request and have no reason to doubt the accuracy of that response — much less suspect intentional misrepresentations within that response.”
The February 23rd letter from the GOP Senators specifically raised concerns regarding the governor’s COVID-19 processes and policies for nursing homes; the accuracy of COVID-19 reporting data; compliance with CDC Guidelines; and compliance with the state Freedom of Information Act.
Nessel addressed each of the four areas of concern and detailed why each concern, as presented, did not warrant the opening of an investigation by her office. She stressed that the choice to investigate a claim or pursue prosecution must be made free from political motivations or influence. Nessel said she will not hesitate to act when justified, but she also will not abuse the investigatory powers of the department to launch a political attack on any state official, regardless of party or beliefs.
Nessel said suggesting that public health policy decisions by themselves should be investigated because different approaches could have resulted in fewer deaths is “inappropriate” and violates ethical guidelines.
Runestad accused the attorney general of abdicating her responsibility and said legislative committees had been unable to get data from the state.
“Families who lost loved ones to COVID-19 in nursing homes deserve to get answers. And just like the Whitmer administration, today the office of the Democratic attorney general let those families down,” he said in a statement.
Nessel noted that she did pursue an investigation into allegations surrounding a state contract for COVID-19 contact tracing services highlighted in a prior written request made by Senator Runestad. Multiple prosecutors and special agents were assigned to investigate the contract and the AG’s investigation team interviewed 17 witnesses and reviewed thousands of documents.
Their findings were released in a 29-page report outlining the work and explaining how criminal charges were unfounded under Michigan law. A link to that is provided while the AG’s response to the request for the recent investigation is attached.
In August, the Justice Department sent letters to four Democratic governors — including Whitmer — seeking information on their nursing home orders. She called it “nothing more than a transparent politicization” of the department in an election year.
The Justice Department has declined to comment further.
Under a policy change and subsequent bipartisan law enacted in the fall, 18 “care and recovery centers” within nursing homes have been designated for people with COVID-19. Some former hub homes no longer met criteria due to lower staffing ratings or abuse or neglect citations.
Hundreds of other nursing homes can still retain or admit infected residents because they have a designated area for them, typically in the same building.