Legislator: Additional work must be done to look at data used for decision-making
State Rep. Ann Bollin, of Brighton Township, today said responding effectively and with integrity to meet the demands of future crises is paramount to keeping Michigan residents safe and cultivating their trust in state government.
Bollin underlined that sentiment when sharing information with the Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic on an Auditor General inquiry she made into a failed contact tracing contract awarded by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration. The ensuing report from the Auditor General’s Office showed Great Lakes Community Engagement (GLCE) was the only firm considered for the COVID-19 contact tracing project. GLCE is connected to K2K Consulting and Kolehouse Strategies, political consulting companies owned by Donald M. Kolehouse II with strong ties to Gov. Whitmer and other Democratic political campaigns.
“This request was not political. It was not partisan. It is not a ‘gotcha’ moment. It’s simply about ensuring the public’s trust in our leaders, in each other and in the data,” Bollin said before the select committee. “Contact tracing quickly became the centerpiece of the public health strategy in our battle against COVID-19. Leading experts advised us this was a highly contagious virus and if we were to combat it, we’d need solid contact tracing data.
“But contact tracing volunteers who thought they were helping in this fight and submitted their personal information – including names, email addresses and phone numbers – instead had that information funneled to a data firm that could use it for political purposes.”
Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon testified before the select committee last week, admitting several times the decision to pursue a contract with the firm in question was a mistake. Individuals who both Gordon and the Office of the Auditor General identified as playing key roles in the awarding of the contact tracing contract – Andrea Taverna of the Michigan Public Health Institute and DHHS HIV/STD Division Director Kathryn Macomber – have refused multiple invitations to speak before the select committee. Taverna refused to cooperate with the Auditor General when the office was compiling its report and has declined to speak with the Attorney General as it investigates the contract.
“I appreciate DHHS making contact tracing a priority, but our role within a governing body is to act in the best interest of the people we serve and do our best to protect their health, safety and welfare,” Bollin said. “That must come first – and there are very real questions as to whether or not that was done in this instance. So I believe it was necessary to properly vet this contract and the decision-making behind what data was to be collected and for what purpose. What is the role of the Michigan Public Health Institute? Why couldn’t the existing Michigan Disease Surveillance System be expanded? We must continue to look into the process as questions still remain.”
State Rep. Ann Bollin today issued the following statement after Gov. Whitmer vetoed House Bill 5881 and Senate Bill 977, legislation Bollin helped sponsor to protect the integrity of Michigan’s absentee voting system by making it a felony to knowingly fill out an absentee ballot application with another person’s information.