Commissioner Jacob Bonnema has been censured by the Ottawa GOP
Published June 23, 2023
Written by Adams
Photography by Simply American
Jacob Bonnema was officially rebuked by the Executive Committee of the Ottawa County Republican Party on June 20, 2023. He was censured for continued violation of Republican Party principles and a frivolous harassment complaint against a county employee.
It Was A Lie, A Frivolous Claim
During the Ottawa County GOP Executive Committee meeting on Tuesday, June 20, 2023, Accountability Chair John DeBlaay brought forth a Resolution to Censure.
After four months of conversation and investigation, the Ottawa County GOP has censured Jacob Bonnema, County Commissioner District 4, “for behavior unbecoming of a public servant and violating Republican values.”
A censure is defined as an official reprimand, rebuke, or deep disapproval at a single point in time.
Brendan Muir, Chairman of the Ottawa County GOP, started the censure conversation by citing Bonnema’s violations of Republican Party principles.
Violation of Republican Party Principles
The following statements were included in the censure:
March 13, 2023. Jacob Bonnema released a statement from his committee, “Friends of Jacob Bonnema.” An excerpt from the press release supports medical mandates: “no medical mandates without informed consent.” Bonnema’s position and further advocacy for a “pandemic panel” exposes a lack of transparency regarding campaign promises to protect individual freedoms and parental rights.
March 14, 2023. Jacob Bonnema voted three times in concert with Doug Zylstra, the only self-identified Democrat on the board, to delay Republican-led objectives in the Board meeting. This is but one example of consistent camaraderie between Bonnema and Zylstra, in active opposition to the majority of the Republican board.
April 22, 2023. Jacob Bonnema was interviewed by the progressive newspaper, the Washington Post. In the article, Bonnema defames a fellow Republican commissioner by saying, “He is not afraid to hurt people,” with no supporting evidence. Jacob Bonnema’s frequent negative statements about fellow Republicans to local and national media, including radio, erode the public trust in Republican members of the Board and the Republican Party.
Timeline of Commissioner Bonnema’s Frivolous Harassment Complaint
Chair Brendan Muir continued with a timeline of events surrounding Bonnema’s “frivolous harassment complaint” against Administrator John Gibbs. These statements also were included in the censure:
March 21, 2023. Jacob Bonnema sent an email to Marcie Ver Beek, Director of HR for Ottawa County. In the email, he highlighted an exchange he initiated with Administrator John Gibbs in front of the press at a Board meeting. At the end of the email, Jacob requested an HR investigation into Mr. Gibbs for claims of harassment, threats, intimidation, insubordination, and indecent conduct. The email constituted a defamatory accusation against Mr. Gibbs and kicked off a harassment investigation which cost thousands of dollars.
May 10, 2023. This email and investigation was leaked to the press. The Holland Sentinel picked it up and made a precise FOIA request to obtain the information. After which, the Sentinel published a hit piece on John Gibbs. The title of the article reads, “‘Get out of my face’: Ottawa Administrator’s behavior ‘threatening,’ commissioner claims.’’ The article can be found on the Holland Sentinel site and Yahoo.
June 7, 2023. The investigation against John Gibbs resulted in the following response from Ms. Ver Beek: “After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the claim is unfounded, and the charges raised are not sustained… The evidence gathered during the investigation did not substantiate the claim of harassment.”
“This was a boy who cried wolf,” Muir said. “In other words, it was a lie, a politically motivated lie. A frivolous claim.”
Muir continued, “I have both emails from Jacob and the response from Marcie Ver Beek to Chairman Moss, and I recommended it to the Accountability Committee.”
After four months of conversations, along with the complaint investigation, the Ottawa County GOP would be voting to censure Bonnema.
While voting members of the committee reviewed the evidence given, Muir introduced the Ottawa County Republican Party: Resolution for Censure.
WHEREAS, the Ottawa County Republican Party (OCRP) seeks to hold elected officials accountable to the truth; and
WHEREAS, the OCRP feels that the Republicans of County District 4 and the Party itself have been defrauded; and
WHEREAS, the OCRP denies the tyranny of medical mandates and believes in the rights of parents and individuals to make their own choices; and
WHEREAS, the OCRP does not support abuses of power or baseless, defamatory accusations; and
WHEREAS, the OCRP sees Commissioner Bonnema’s divisiveness of eroding the public trust in the Republican-led Board of Commissioners and Republican Party; and
WHEREAS, the OCRP believes that Commissioner Bonnema’s consistent actions against fellow Republicans is a growing pattern.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, FIRST, The OCRP condemns the actions of Commissioner Jacob Bonnema, which have been used to advance the cause of the Democratic Party in Ottawa County; and
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, SECOND, The OCRP formally censures Commissioner Jacob Bonnema for opposing Republican Party principles, and for his frivolous, meritless claim against Administrator John Gibbs; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, LASTLY, The OCRP strips Commissioner Bonnema of voting rights for the next 6 executive committee meetings.
A Look Into The Incident With Administrator Gibbs
“If you really want to go into technicality of what’s transpired…” Accountability Chair John DeBlaay said. “You all remember receiving the Accountability Guidelines? Those guidelines, he [Bonnema] has literally broken every guideline multiple times.”
DeBlaay continued, “When I looked at the evidence from this particular case, the next best step is obviously censure.”
The floor then opened for discussion. Commissioner Gretchen Cosby spoke about the incident between Bonnema and Gibbs, since she was in close proximity when it happened.
“What I noticed,” Cosby said, “was Bonnema leaning across the table in a really odd position that was set up very nicely with the press. They were so close that if John had turned, they would have kissed. He was so close.”
“As Jacob walked away he was saying, ‘Did you hear what he said? Did you hear what he said?’” Cosby continued, “It was very, very uncomfortable to witness too. I thought he [Gibbs] handled it very professionally considering how close Jacob was.”
Commissioner Rebekah Curran came to Bonnema’s defense. “I was kind of on the other side of the room. I would say that in fairness, Jacob was a little close. But, I know that I personally have observed that John has become very argumentative. So it would not shock me if this is the way that it went down.”
Commissioner Joe Moss went on to explain that Bonnema had told him this year that he wanted Administrator Gibbs removed as Administrator. Moss also mentioned Bonnema had been combative at meetings and had said negative and divisive comments in front of others about Gibbs.
Ottawa Republican Party Vice Chair Jenni Shepherd-Kelley followed: “I want to open this to the commissioners. With everything laid out, I just find it odd that he’s [Bonnema’s] claiming, and other people are complaining, that it’s Gibbs that’s combative. It seems like it’s the person who stood up, walked across the room, got into someone else’s face… a person who was just sitting there… clearly that’s just an overreach. If he was that close to your face, what would you say to him? Would you say, ‘Get out of my face?’”
“I just want to make sure we are looking [at] all the reasons for the censure,” Commissioner Allison Miedema said. “We are talking about the one thing [the incident with Gibbs], which is a big thing, but making sure that we’re not forgetting all the reasons. I can stand and testify in agreement to all of these from my own experience.”
“Did he know that this [the censure] was coming?” Curran asked. “This is an escalation!”
Shepherd-Kelley interjected, “I would say the Washington Post was the escalation. Then trying to get another Republican’s job taken away.”
“We reached out to see if he would come,” Muir replied. The Chair of the Accountability Committee explained that the committee had been speaking with Bonnema about his behavior for months.
“This is not behavior from a county commissioner,” Accountability Chair DeBlaay said.
The vote to censure Jacob Bonnema passed 32-1-1.
The one “No” vote was Commissioner Rebekah Curran. The one “Abstain” vote was Bonnema, who had given Muir his proxy vote.
It is rare for a Republican Party Executive Committee to hold one of their own members accountable by censure.
The Ottawa County Republican Party is overwhelmingly unified in the way forward. Their actions demonstrate they are serious about upholding Republican values and condemning abuses of power.