Runestad issues statement on attorney general’s refusal to investigate nursing home policy

‘The attorney general chose to cast a cloud over the administration’s policies and the consequences that came with them’

LANSING, Mich. — After Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Monday her office will not investigate the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer administration’s nursing home policies, Sen. Jim Runestad said Nessel has abdicated her responsibility as the state’s top legal officer.

“Just like New York, Michigan was one of five states whose executive orders forced nursing homes to take COVID-19-positive patients into the same facilities as our most vulnerable seniors,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “Grieving families deserve to know why this happened, how it was allowed to happen, and why the administration refuses to release nursing home COVID-19 data.

“In New York, the Democratic attorney general did the right thing and launched an investigation into the Democratic administration’s nursing home policies. She put people over politics. Apparently that’s too much to ask of our attorney general.

“During Sunshine Week — which is supposed to raise awareness for a more open and transparent government — the attorney general instead chose to cast a cloud over the administration’s policies and the consequences that came with them.”

Runestad, along with seven other senators, sent a letter to Nessel on Feb. 23 requesting that the office of the attorney general “open a full investigation into Gov. Whitmer’s handling of pandemic mitigation in our state’s long-term care facilities.”

The senators specifically asked that the investigation include the administration’s nursing home policies, the accuracy of nursing home data, compliance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and compliance with Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.

“I can’t help but notice the irony of Nessel claiming that prosecutions must be made free from political motivations or influence,” Runestad said. “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.

“Not only is this an abdication of responsibility, it is an insult to every family member who lost a loved one to COVID-19 in a nursing home. Upholding the law shouldn’t be about Republicans versus Democrats. It should be about making the right choice, holding public officials accountable and standing up for the most vulnerable and their families.

“There are too many similarities between what happened in New York and what happened in Michigan not to investigate. Thousands of New York families recently learned the truth of the matter because of an investigation, and that’s what we need here.”

The attorney general’s response comes amid increased calls for an investigation into the state’s COVID-19 nursing home policies. Macomb County’s prosecutor recently announced measures to clear the way for criminal complaints against the Whitmer administration. Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff is also suing Whitmer for the release of nursing home virus data.

Additionally, legislative committees in both the Senate and House have requested similar data from the Whitmer administration related to the COVID-19 response and nursing home policies, but to date the committees have received nothing.