Michigan human services director to leave post after 4 years

Gary Heinlein
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Maura Corrigan will retire as head of Michigan’s Human Services Department at year’s end, completing a four-year commitment she made when she took the job, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder confirmed Tuesday.

Early in his first term, Snyder appointed the former Michigan Supreme Court justice to head the huge, often-troubled state agency, which oversaw various forms of assistance to more than 2.9 million Michigan recipients in 2013.

Her departure at the end of of 2014 “has been the understanding from the very beginning when Maura agreed to leave the Michigan Supreme Court to take on serving as Department of Human Services director,” said Snyder press secretary Sara Wurfel.

Corrigan wants to leave government so she can spend more time with her family, including grandchildren, in Metro Detroit, department spokesman Robert Wheaton said.

She was a Republican nominee when she first ran for the Supreme Court in 1998 and for re-election in 2006.

Department-head departures by appointees at the end of a governor’s term in office are common in Michigan. Health Department Director James Haveman recently said he will step down after suffering a mild stroke last spring.

Snyder, whose first term ends this year, is in the midst of a tight re-election race with Democratic challenger Mark Schauer, a former state lawmaker and U.S. congressman from Battle Creek.

Corrigan “has been ... a tremendous leader with an unwavering commitment to and passion for serving our state’s children and families in need,” Wurfel said.

She said Snyder was grateful Corrigan was willing to leave her second eight-year Supreme Court term, which would have lasted until next Jan. 1, to take over leadership of the welfare agency in 2011.

“This administration inherited large and long-standing problems, including a federal consent decree (the department) was under for state’s child welfare system,” Wurfel said. “Major improvements have been made, not only there but in so many other ways ... as well as being fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars.”

Wheaton said those improvements include:

■ Corrigan negotiating a modified settlement agreement to the federal consent decree.

■Setting up 187 Pathways to Potential schools in 21 counties to assist students and families with obstacles to school success and reduce absenteeism.

■ A 62-percent increase in the work participation rate for cash assistance recipients through a program called PATH (Partnership, Accountability, Training, Hope).

Corrigan served on the state’s high court from 1999 until the end of 2010 and was its chief justice for four years. She served on the Michigan Court of Appeals prior to that.

She has trimmed assistance programs and prioritized reforms of adoption and foster care programs as DHS boss. But state auditor general reports occasionally have criticized the department's handling of some services.

“It’s an honor to work for Governor Snyder,” Corrigan said. “Rick Snyder’s leadership has meant so much for the state of Michigan and its kids and families. We’ve accomplished so much, but we will accomplish even more in the coming months.”


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