LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– Wednesday Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel released the findings of her investigation, into allegations that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) unlawfully entered into a contract for COVID-19 contact-tracing with an alleged political ally.
According to Nessel, Following a thorough review of all physical evidence collected and all statements taken, the Department of Attorney General found no evidence of criminal conduct, specifically stating that “It is our recommendation that any request for criminal charges arising from the procurement of the contract to perform contact-tracing for COVID-19 positive cases … be denied ….”
Nessel agreed to probe the procurement process at the request of Republican State Sen. Jim Runestad. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer quickly ordered the cancellation of her administration’s no-bid contact-tracing contract to Great Lakes Community Engagement, calling it an “unnecessary distraction.”
According to our media partners at WHMI, The issue had originally been brought to light by Republican Livingston County Commissioner Wes Nakagiri after he had volunteered to help with contact tracing but noticed that the software company EveryAction VAN, which was chosen to manage the data, has connections to dozens of Democratic candidates, including Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
EveryAction was contracted through Great Lakes Community Engagement, a Grand Rapids company owned by a Democratic consultant who planned to use software developed by a firm with ties to Democratic campaigns.
Whitmer has said the contract — which would have been worth nearly $200,000 over two months — should have been approved by the State Emergency Operations Center, not the state Department of Health and Human Services.
Whitmer said also the state health department “does not have a political bone in their theoretical body.” Boosting efforts to track down people who came into contact with individuals who have COVID-19 is “incredibly important,” she said.
Republicans called for Whitmer’s administration to release state emails related to the decision to give the contract to Great Lakes Community Engagement. Nessel, in a letter to Runestad, said “we hold a collective responsibility to ensure accountability and transparency in state government. These obligations are a direct result of our roles as public servants, irrespective of political party.”
The state health department has trained more than 2,200 volunteers to help county health departments with contact tracing. It also has shifted more than 130 department employees to assist counties in investigating cases.
A team of three criminal investigators and four assistant attorneys general with expertise in criminal and/or procurement law conducted numerous interviews with 17 individuals and obtained and reviewed thousands of emails and other documents as part of the investigation.
“I appreciate the concern raised by Sen. Runestad but I also appreciate the reality under which this contract was pursued,” said Nessel. “With the benefit of hindsight, there may have been a better way to accomplish the Department’s ultimate purpose but we found no evidence of criminality. Instead, it appears the imperfect process used here was mainly a result of the Department’s attempt to get a contact-tracing program underway as quickly as possible in light of the dire public health crisis.”