HIGHLIGHTS + OTTAWA COUNTY
Meeting highlights—public hearing on FY24 budget, Bergman makes a motion, Early Voting Agreement postponed
Published September 13, 2023
Written by Adams
Photography by Simply American
Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting once again brought out public comments, misinformation, and Bergman’s disparagement of certain Ottawa County voters.
Board Of Commissioners
Tuesday, September 12, 2023
Administrator John Gibbs shared the following facts regarding the proposal for the FY24 Ottawa County budget:
• The aim of the budget is to return to normal, pre-covid spending—since the pandemic is over
• The FY24 proposed budget is 22% higher than the FY19 budget
• The population of Ottawa County has grown only 5% since 2019
• The FY24 proposed budget is 7% higher than the FY21 budget
• The Health Department did meet all state requirements in 2021—so, even though there have been no state minimums found, the county will meet or exceed required services levels
• The budget growth is still five times higher than the population growth
• The original proposed FY24 budget was 53% higher than the pre-covid budget in 2019
• All non-mandated public health programs will continue, such as: Maternal Infant Health Program, Children’s Special Health Care Services, Miles of Smiles Mobile Dental Unit for children, and Ottawa Food
Administrator Gibbs addressed the misinformation doled out by the media and some public commenters:
• Claims of the Health Department being “defunded” are not true
• County food programs are not ending
• There are no cuts to Maternal Infant Health Program
• There are no cuts to Children’s Special Health Care Services
• There are no cuts to Miles of Smiles
Bergman’s Divisive Statement
During a motion to vote to appoint Brooke Karl to the Ottawa County Community Corrections Board, Commissioner Roger Bergman made a statement.
According to Bergman:
• Ottawa County went from being the best run county in the state of Michigan to one of the worst
• Ottawa County has become “a serious and laughing joke” around the state, the nation, and sometimes the world
• The process for hiring—where Ottawa County uses the talents of the HR department—is just gone
During his statement, Bergman insinuated that Brooke Karl isn’t qualified for the position. (The insinuation was later countered by Corporate Counsel Jack Jordan who spoke to Brooke Karl’s qualifications.)
Bergman concluded his statement by disparaging Ottawa County voters:
“I could go on and on, but I will stop now because we still have several of their supporters who want to speak for three minutes, and continue with false theories regarding voter fraud, vaccine fraud, deaths caused by covid vaccines and the list goes on. Whatever is the latest false narrative by so-called doctors on the internet, social media or whatever.”
Even after 2020 and 2021—when Bergman lead the former Board to reduce public comment to one minute and limit the amount of people permitted in the board-room—Bergman continues to express frustration with listening to the constituents of Ottawa County.
Freedom rings here in Ottawa County, and the new Board upholds the First Amendment rights of all residents.
Early Voting Agreement Postponed
The Early Voting Agreement is a request for funding to staff the nine days of early voting required by the passing of Proposal 2.
On September 5, 2023, the Policy Committee voted 10-0 for the Early Voting Agreement to be moved forward to the Board. One week later, the Early Voting Agreement was on the Board’s agenda—not as an action item, but as an item for discussion.
• Several commissioners asked to add more safety measures to the voting agreement
• Chair Joe Moss mentioned that watermarked ballots are an important piece to add. Commissioner Doug Zylstra disagreed that they’re needed, but Clerk Justin Roebuck was “very supportive of watermarked ballots.”
• Vice-Chair Sylvia Rhodea suggested that the county may want to help the local clerks provide 24/7 video surveillance of the drop boxes
• Moss committed to sitting down again with Roebuck to see what could be done to support election integrity, recognizing the need for expediency considering there is a September 30 deadline for the clerks to have their plan in place
• Rhodea added that she and other commissioners want to make sure that if there are questions about the next election, the clerks aren’t blamed for a specific detail that was overlooked by the commissioners.
Throughout the discussion on the voting agreement, Vice-Chair Sylvia Rhodea emphasized that we shouldn’t be moving quickly and missing details.
Rhodea said it’s important to get elections right, asserting that election integrity “is probably the most important issue in our county and for the future of our nation.”