LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is denying a request from eight Republican state senators to investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 nursing home policies.
Sens. Jim Runestad, Tom Barrett, Ruth Johnson, Kim LaSata, Roger Victory, Lana Theis, Dale Zorn and Curtis VanderWall all signed a letter dated Feb. 23 raising concerns about Whitmer’s policies that allowed patients with confirmed COVID-19 cases to receive treatment at nursing homes instead of remaining in hospitals.
Nursing homes were directed to house those patients in facilities physically separate from healthy residents.
The senators also raised concerns about COVID-19 data reporting, compliance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and potential Freedom of Information Act violations.
Nessel pointed out that the senators didn’t provide any evidence to support their concerns or allegations.
With the nursing home concerns, she said a University of Michigan study found a small per capita COVID-19 death rate than other states.
Nessel said her office can’t investigate whether decisions made quickly to contain COVID-19 constituted bad public policy if other alternatives were available. She said the Attorney General’s Office is limited to investigating criminal allegations, but there are none with the nursing home policies.
The senators raised concerns about the ongoing scandal in New York regarding Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff understating the number of nursing home deaths related to COVID-19. Nessel said she not aware of evidence showing Whitmer’s administration engaged in similar conduct and the senators didn’t provide any in their letter.
She pointed out that Whitmer’s office responded to a request for nursing home information from the U.S. Department of Justice and she believes that report correctly stated the facts.
Nessel also said the senators’ letter doesn’t contain specific enough information about allegations that Whitmer didn’t comply with CDC guidelines or Freedom of Information Act requests.
She said any decisions about whether to investigate elected officials like the governor must be based on facts free of political motivations.
“I appreciate that you and your colleagues have policy disagreements with Governor Whitmer’s response to COVID-19. But an investigation by my office is not the mechanism to resolve those disagreements,” Nessel wrote in her response to the lawmakers.
Her office investigated a contact tracing contract Whitmer’s administration awarded to a firm last year with strong ties to Democratic Party campaigns. No criminal charges were issued after the investigation.
“Though I will not hesitate to act when justified, I also will not abuse the investigatory powers of this department to launch a political attack on any state official, regardless of party or beliefs,” said Nessel in her response.
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