Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) would not answer questions Thursday about one of her appointees involved in another scandal.
Whitmer was leaving an event in Grand Rapids when she was asked if the former director of the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA), Steve Gray, “would return his $86,000 worth of hush money.”
The governor rushed to her car while an unidentified staffer ran interference:
— Michigan Rising Action (@MIRisingAction) July 15, 2021
The UIA has been plagued by computer problems and other issues as Michiganders, unemployed due to Whitmer’s lockdown response to the pandemic, sought relief.
State Rep. Steve Johnson (R), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement announcing an investigation into the scandal:
The Unemployment Agency has been a complete mess. From all the fraudulent activity occurring within the Agency to their latest letter to nearly 700,000 Michiganders potentially demanding they pay funds back, the UIA is a disaster and there needs to be leadership changes now.
“How about before asking people to pay funds back due to the state’s mistake, they ask former director Steve Gray to pay back his $86,000 hush fund payment.”
In March, it was revealed Gray received a “previously undisclosed separation agreement,” the Detroit News reported.
Similar to a heavily criticized taxpayer-funded confidential agreement with former health director Robert Gordon, Gray’s contract stipulated he was prevented from saying anything negative about his former boss.
“In addition, both parties agree that they will not make any statements or take any action disparaging the reputation of the other, whether written or oral,” it said.
Most of the $86,000 represented pay through June 1, nearly seven months after he resigned.
“Gov. Whitmer and her administration have repeatedly tried to avoid accountability for their negligence in the state’s unemployment agency, but today’s investigation announcement proves that this dereliction of duty will not stand,” Eric Ventimiglia, executive director for Michigan Rising Action, said in a statement.
“We applaud Rep. Steve Johnson for his commitment to uncovering the truth behind the disarray at the states unemployment office, which has left thousands of Michiganders helpless as they’ve struggled to navigate Whitmer’s crippling COVID shutdowns and restrictions.”