HIGHLIGHTS + OTTAWA COUNTY
Meeting highlights—Hambley under oath, Health Dept budget, Belknap replaces Bonnema, early voting staffing
Published September 6, 2023
Written by Adams
Photography by Simply American
The Board of Commissioners’ Finance and Administration Committee meeting had a lot of information, many questions answered, and an outbreak in the audience from a known local activist.
• With the local media uproar and fear of being fired by the Board, Adeline Hambley attended the Finance and Administration meeting today with her lawyer by her side
• Commissioner Cosby invited Hambley up to the podium, asking her to raise her right hand and solemnly swear to affirm that the testimony she was about to give would be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help her God. Raising her right hand, Hambley agreed.
• According to MCL 46.11(k), the Board of Commissioners can require a county officer whose salary or compensation is paid by the county to make a report under oath on any subject connected with the duties of that office
• Once under oath, Chair Moss had a couple of general questions about timeline and process with setting the budget. He reminded Hambley that there still are three weeks left in the budget process, and they do not have a budget finalized.
• Moss asked Hambley, “Can you explain why the Health Department tagged the following organizations in its August 24 Twitter post: Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Attorney General, National Association of County and City Health Officials, and Network for Public Health Law”
• Hambley’s lawyer stood to join her at the podium. The lawyer asked for time to confer with Hambley. The Board gave them a recess of 10 minutes.
• Throughout the rest of the commissioners’ questioning, Hambley placed blame on Administrator Gibbs for not communicating with her during the budget process
Administrator Gibbs provided an update on the Proposed FY24 Health Department Budget.
Health Department Budget Highlights:
• The aim of FY24 is to go back and adjust to pre-covid levels
• FY24 does account for the end of covid and does say “no” to covid grants and positions
• The total number of employees since pre-covid increased from 90 to 120. That’s roughly a 30% increase. It’s higher than inflation and population growth.
• The current proposed budget is 22% higher than the FY19 Budget
• In August of 2021, 42 new positions were approved—a significant leap. Those will be rolled back.
• County population has grown by about 4.5% since 2019 and, with the rate of growth for the Public Health budget being 22% since 2019, the budget they are looking at is about five times higher than population growth
• During the beginning of Administrator John Gibbs’ update on the Proposed FY24 Health Department Budget, a member of the audience became disruptive
• Commissioner Cosby asked for order in the audience
• The disruptor, who is a local political activist, challenged her to remove him
• Cosby asked a police officer to remove him
• The disruptor decided to play a harmonica and ignore the officer
• The disruptor was escorted out by the Under Sheriff and a police officer
Appointment Of New Vice Chairperson For The Finance And Administration Committee
• A motion was put forward to remove Commissioner Jacob Bonnema from his Vice Chair position on the Finance and Administration Committee and replace him with Commissioner Roger Belknap
• Commissioner Bergman said the action of removing Bonnema was “highly irregular,” wondering why this was happening
• Cosby reminded Bergman of Bonnema’s censure
• Board Chair Joe Moss inserted that the censure was two months ago and that, in his mind, this action of replacing Bonnema with Belknap would be separate
• Bonnema asked to provide some “clarity.” Reading a prepared statement, he verbally attacked the characters of both Administrator John Gibbs and Moss
• Cosby said that she needed to have a Vice Chair that she could trust
• Both Commissioners Allison Miedema and Sylvia Rhodea commented that they regretted not voting for Belknap when they had the chance in January
• The vote passed 5-3-1, with Belknap abstaining
Early Voting Administrative Services
• County Clerk Justin Roebuck gave a presentation on the new Michigan voting laws
• With the passing of Proposal 2 in 2022, Michigan now has a nine-day, early voting period
• Roebuck explained how the change in early voting necessitates the addition of one full-time, benefitted Election Logistics Specialist and one, temporary Election Logistics Assistant
• After several questions from the commissioners regarding election integrity efforts, the motion to approve the one full-time and one temporary positions passed 10-0
After a very long, very strange day in the boardroom, many questions were answered.