Virginia Gordan | Michigan Radio
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Virginia Gordan

Reporter

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.

Virginia joined Michigan Radio after a career at the University of Michigan Law School, first as Assistant Dean of Students and later as Assistant Dean of International Affairs. Before that she worked as a lawyer in Washington, DC, on the development of low and moderate income housing.

Virginia loves the state of Michigan and especially enjoys exploring its lakes (including the Great ones) as often as possible.

UAW
UAW

On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman sentenced former United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams to 21 months in prison. That will be followed by one year of supervised release. Williams has also paid $132,517 in restitution to the UAW.

Williams pled guilty last August to a multi-year conspiracy to embezzle funds for personal benefit.

The money went to pay for private villas, rounds of golf, and high end meals, liquor, and cigars for himself and his friends.

Karen Woolstrum / Unsplash

Federal help is on the way for restaurants, bars, food trucks, caterers and other food establishments across the country that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is to help them keep their doors open.

The U.S. Small Business Administration opened up applications on Monday  for the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The RRF was established under the American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Joe Biden in March.

a table set up with people around it at the Ford Field vaccination site in Detroit
Vince Duffy / Michigan Radio

Anyone 18 and older can now get a free one dose Johnson & Johnson vaccination at Ford Field in Detroit, during the final two weeks of the federal mass vaccination site's operation.

The site is also providing free second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to anyone 16 and older regardless of where they got their first dose. The first dose needs to have taken place 21 days before the second dose can be given, and people should bring their CDC vaccination card to Ford Field.

WoodleyWonderWorks / Flickr

The Michigan Department of Education is offering an option to help school districts deal with what State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice calls a "critical shortage of special education teachers in many Michigan school districts." 

The MDE will allow a time limited waiver that enables a district to temporarily fill a vacancy in a special education classroom with a special education teacher whose specialty area - formally called an endorsement - differs from the classroom with an open slot.

The goal is to reduce reliance on substitute teachers in special education programs.

newborn baby
unsplash

Michigan has achieved its lowest infant mortality rate in the state's recorded history, according to an announcement this week by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Infant mortality is the death of an infant before reaching the age of one. 

The newly released data shows an infant mortality rate of 6.4 deaths for every 1,000 live births in 2019. That's down from a rate of 8.5 per thousand in 2003.

people signing petitions
Fraitag.de / Adobe Stock

Michigan's Board of State Canvassers deadlocked Thursday on certifying a petition that seeks to repeal the 1945 Emergency Powers of Governor Act that Governor Gretchen Whitmer used early in the pandemic to issue COVID-19 orders.

The tie vote of 2-2 was along party lines.

The vote means the Unlock Michigan initiative does not move on to the Republican-controlled Legislature for a vote that would be veto proof. 

State Rep. Larry Inman talking to reporters
Rick Pluta / Michigan Radio

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker ruled this week that the government cannot retry former Republican state Representative Larry Inman on charges of attempted extortion and soliciting a bribe.

stun gun
bibiphoto / Adobe Stock

Anyone 18 years and older would be allowed to possess and use a stun gun for self-defense in Michigan under legislation that passed this week in the House by a vote of 78-32.

The bill (HB 4029) now moves to the Senate where a similar bill died in committee last year.

Stun guns are devices that need to be held in direct contact with a person. They use an electrical current to create enough pain to temporarily disable an assailant.

Courtesy of Michigan American Civil Liberties Union

A Black Farmington Hills resident has sued the City of Detroit, its police chief, and a city detective for wrongful arrest and wrongful imprisonment. 

Robert Williams was arrested in his own driveway in front of his wife and daughters. He was held in an overcrowded cell for 30 hours.

The federal lawsuit says Williams' arrest for shoplifting was based on a flawed match made by a facial recognition algorithm with no other corroborating evidence.

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA)
Bytemarks / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency is warning the public that it is experiencing a new wave of imposter claims for federal Pandemic Unemployment Insurance

Agency officials said the UIA has flagged for potential fraud about 100,000 claims that have been filed in Michigan in less than one week since April 2.

test with bubble answers
mehmet / Adobe Stock

The U.S. Department of Education has denied Michigan's request to waive the federal requirement of year-end statewide assessments, known as state summative tests, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

That means Michigan students are going to have to take the M-STEP and several other tests this spring.

black and white photo of ron weiser
University of Michigan

The University of Michigan Board of Regents has called a special meeting on Friday, April 2, at 9:30 a.m. "to address recent events."

Sources say the Board will consider whether to censure fellow Regent and Michigan GOP Chair Ron Weiser.

The meeting comes after controversial remarks he made last week at a Republican Party gathering.

Wikimedia Commons

In a new report, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said the U.S. Border Patrol in Michigan uses racial profiling to target immigrants from Latin America throughout the state. 

According to the report, more than 96% of those arrested by the Border Patrol in the state are recorded as non-white.

Courtesy of the City of Grand Rapids

Public governing bodies across the state are facing an important deadline as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Michigan.

An amendment to the State's Open Meetings Act, signed into law on December 23, 2020, is set to expire on March 31. The amendment allows virtual public meetings for any reason.

water going into cup from faucet
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A temporary statewide ban on water shutoffs at occupied homes arising from unpaid bills is set to automatically expire on the last day of March.

The sunset provision is contained in the shutoff ban legislation that was passed by overwhelming majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature this past December. 

ADOLFO FELIX / UNSPLASH

It is "likely" that Michigan's emergency rule restricting most in-person office work will be extended for up to six months after it expires in mid-April, according to Sean Egan, COVID-19 workplace safety director for Michigan's Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

College graduates
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A growing number of Michigan's public universities are offering free tuition programs for lower-income undergraduates.

Saginaw Valley State University announced on Tuesday that it is joining the group.

SVSU President Donald Bachand said in a written statement, "We have maintained the lowest tuition in the state for many years, but the sticker price still causes many families to think an SVSU degree is out of reach."

Hands gripping jail cell bars
maxpixel

A transgender female prisoner has sued the Michigan Department of Corrections in federal court for its failure to protect her at the all-male G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson County, where she had been housed.

The plaintiff, identified as Jane Doe, filed suit on March 2, 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. 

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A bipartisan coalition of state representatives is reintroducing a package of eight bills that would require state officials and candidates to disclose some personal financial information.

The lawmakers said the goal is to increase transparency by helping to screen for potential conflicts of interest.

"It's critical that we have elected officials who are willing to be transparent with their financial interests and share that information with the voters in order to restore and try to rebuild voter confidence in elected offiicials," said Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids), one of the bills' sponsors.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

In a surprising move, Amber McCann, a long time senior staff member for state Senate Republicans, has accepted a new position with Michigan's Department of Attorney General.

McCann is currently deputy chief of staff and press secretary for Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey. She was spokesperson for the previous two Senate Republican leaders, Arlan Meekhof and Randy Richardville.

The Michigan State Capitol
Matthileo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has created a new task force with the goal of preventing and eliminating systemic racism in the state's child protection system. 

Department officials say the substantial overrepresentation of children of color in the system demands what they call "a fundamental system change."

Clker-Free-Vector-Images / Pixabay

The state Bureau of Elections is continuing its probe into whether money paid by the Michigan Republican Party to former Secretary of State candidate Stan Grot violated campaign finance laws.  

Jack Rollow, spokesman for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, confirmed Thursday that the investigation would continue despite the Michigan Republican Party earlier this week withdrawing a letter sent last week to the Bureau by then-party chair Laura Cox.

Cox's February 4 letter triggered the investigation.

wood gavel in front of book
sergign / Adobe Stock

Lansing District Court Judge Kristen Simmons dismissed  misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges Monday against six hair stylists.

The women cut hair in front of the Michigan Capitol in May to protest against Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders that closed down barbershops and hair salons last spring to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Picture of the Lansing capitol building
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The creation of a new, bipartisan task force to address problems in the state's adoption and foster care system was announced Thursday by Michigan Representative Thomas Albert (R-Lowell), chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

"The overall goal is to improve the outcomes for kids that are in the foster care and adoption systems," Albert said.

Albert said the specific agenda will be set by the task force.

He cited child welfare services, family reunification, increasing adoptions, and educational outcomes of foster kids as possible areas to be investigated.

3D rendering of coronavirus
donfiore / Adobe Stock

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has rolled out a voluntary COVID-19 rapid antigen testing program that will provide free weekly tests to K-12 educators who opt in.

MDHHS is providing testing supplies at no cost to any interested public or private school. The tests will be administered on site at the school.

State health officials say the testing program will help achieve Governor Gretchen Whitmer's goal of an in-person instruction option in all Michigan schools by March 1.

a classroom of empty colorful chairs
Flickr user Frank Juarez / Creative Commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

3D rendering of coronavirus
donfiore / Adobe Stock

Michigan's strict public health measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays have proven successful at preventing COVID cases and saving lives. These are the preliminary findings by researchers at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health.

"It appears from our models that the social distancing that Michiganders practiced after November 15th over the holiday season prevented 109,000 cases," said University of Michigan professor Marisa Eisenberg, the study's lead researcher. 

Michigan State Police

Former Macomb County prosecutor Eric Smith pled guilty to one count of obstruction of justice in federal court Wednesday.

His plea hearing was conducted by video conference in front of U.S. District Court Judge Linda V. Parker.

Smith admitted that he tried to get a friend and two of his assistant county proscutors to lie to federal law enforcement officers and to a federal grand jury in an effort to hide his own criminal conduct.

person shaking prescription pills from bottle into hand
User: frankileon / Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

McLaren Health Care Corporation has agreed to pay a record $7,750,000 civil penalty to the U.S. government to resolve alleged violations of the federal Controlled Substances Act.

The civil settlement was announced earlier this week by the U.S. Attorneys for the Western and Eastern Districts of Michigan.

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