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Will Ottawa County Cut Its Health Department Budget To $ 2.5 Million?

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Reputable Member
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The legacy Ottawa County Board of Commissioners, which was thrown out of office by voters in November, installed Administrative Health Officer Adeline Hambley during their lame duck sessions. Jack Jordan, the county’s new corporate counsel, said the legacy Board, in its lame duck haste, never held the second vote required to approve Hambley’s appointment.

The new Ottawa County Board of Commissioners dismissed her, and then she sued for wrongful termination in February.  Muskegon County Judge Jenny McNeill was appointed to oversee Hambley's case against the Ottawa Commissioners and issued a preliminary injunction preventing the board from firing Hambley in March. The Michigan Court of Appeals vacated Judge McNeill's order in July, but Hambley is still Administrative Health Officer.

Ottawa County Administrator John Gibbs asked Hambley on August 22 to create a 2024 budget which reduces expenditures by half.  She is protesting on FakeBook:

Ottawa County health officer warns proposed budget cuts could ‘impair, eliminate’ services
By Audra Gamble | August 22, 2023

OTTAWA COUNTY, MI — In the midst of the 2024 fiscal year budget process, Ottawa County Administrator John Gibbs has asked the county health department to provide a version of its budget that was reduced by nearly half, the county health officer said.

In a Facebook post written by embattled Health Officer Adeline Hambley on the county’s department of public health page, Hambley said Gibbs asked her on Tuesday, Aug. 22, to propose a new budget with a nearly 50% reduction by Thursday, Aug. 24.

“Proposed budget reductions of this size will significantly impair, and likely eliminate, various public health services and the health department’s ability to maintain public health and safety,” Hambley wrote in the post. “It is ridiculous to expect that services in 2024 could be completed with a budget below 2009 funding levels.”

The request from Gibbs came a day after a special finance committee work session meeting in which county commissioners discussed the 2024 budget. At the meeting, Chairman Joe Moss proposed a general fund reduction for the county’s department of public health, taking the budget from a $6.4 million general fund contribution down to $2.5 million.

During that Aug. 21 meeting, Gibbs said it would be better practice to have other Ottawa County departments wait until next year’s budget for an across-the-board 5% budget cut, which was previously proposed by Commissioner Gretchen Cosby.

“I think that the goal you had mentioned of a 5% reduction is something very much within the realm of what we can analyze, but I don’t know if it’s possible within the timeframe of the fiscal year 2024 budget,” Gibbs said Monday. “My recommendation is to make this a conversation that goes into the next year’s budget.”

Cosby originally proposed the countywide 5% budget reduction as an effort to be fiscally responsible and mindful of the “inflationary pressures” that residents are feeling.

Hambley and the county health department have frequently butted heads with Moss and Gibbs, along with other members of the ultra-conservative political group Ottawa Impact that Moss founded.

Earlier this year, Ottawa Impact county commissioners attempted to remove Hambley from her role as county health officer and replace her with Nate Kelly, who most recently worked at an HVAC company.

This attempt by Ottawa Impact commissioners has led to an ongoing lawsuit between Hambley and several Ottawa Impact county commissioners.

In Hambley’s social media post, she stated that commissioners want to give up a “significant amount of grant money, allegedly because of various political considerations,” particularly grants related to COVID-19.

“If the commission moves forward with this level of budget-slashing, I believe it will be a clear act of unlawful retaliation against me for bringing a wrongful termination suit for attempting to remove me as the appointed administrative health officer, and for the trial court’s decision to grant me judgement on that claim,” Hambley wrote. “Moreover, such actions may subject the county to other legal consequences, such as the issuance of an administrative compliance order to the local governing entity by the state of Michigan for failure to demonstrate adequate provision of required services to the community.”

Ottawa County government leaders are at a regular county board of commissioners meeting Tuesday night. It began at 6:30 p.m. In one of the early public comments, the issue of the proposed cuts to the health department was brought up.

Reputable Member
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Topic starter  

This story is garnering national and state attention.  The Washington Post covered the sex ed angle of this situation on Sunday:

BridgeMI recapped the MLive and Washington Post stories yesterday:

WOOD-TV covered the response of Administrative Health Officer Adeline Hambley to the proposed Ottawa County budget cuts.  Hambley went to some length in her response  to threaten the people who require permits from her department, a form of extortion much beloved of American bureaucrats:

The WOOD-TV story on Hambley's response is more readable:

Health officer: Slashed budget would shutter Ottawa health department
By Rachel Van Gilder - August 24, 2023

OLIVE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Ottawa County’s top health officer says her department would survive only a matter of weeks if commissioners go through with a proposal to slash its budget.

Administrative Health Officer Adeline Hambley on Thursday released a response to a request from Ottawa County Administrator John Gibbs to present a budget limited to $2.5 million in general fund dollars. She was instructed to prepare an outline of spending under that limit by Thursday.

“Every public health program will be at risk under the unreasonable general fund budget allocation requested by Administrator Gibbs on behalf of the Board of Commissioners,” Hambley wrote in the document.

She described the limitation as “significant and retaliatory,” referencing her lawsuit against county commissioners backed by conservative political action committee Ottawa Impact for trying to oust her.

She also argued Commission Chair Joe Moss — who formed Ottawa Impact after the health department shut down his kids’ school over COVID-era mask mandates — was trying to “achieve political victory over COVID-19 at the expense of Ottawa County citizens.”

Hambley presented a spreadsheet indicating that between 2009 and 2020, the health department received no less than about $3.4 million from the general fund. For the 2020 fiscal year, implemented before the pandemic started, it got about $3.7 million. About $1.1 million went to administrative costs, bringing the amount sent directly to public health services for that fiscal year to about $2.6 million.

In the document, Hambley argued that if bound to a $2.5 million budget in the upcoming fiscal year, there would be two likely outcomes:

First, if the department maintained only essential services and mandated public health administration, it would close in four weeks. That would be the end of October because the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

In the other scenario, the department would send all its available dollars to essential services that may not charge fees: hearing screening, vision screening, immunizations and waivers, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, and the communicable disease program. They would make it seven weeks after Oct. 1.

At the same time, programs that may charge fees would remain — but those fees would triple to make the programs self-sustaining. Fees for food safety inspections would increase from $700 to $2,100 per license. Fees for a drinking water well permit would increase from $400 to $1,200 and new sewage disposal permits would increase from $535 to $1,605. Fees for inspections of wells and sewage systems before a property sale would increase from $300 to $900.

Hambley said that under a $2.5 million budget, about 67% would go to fund administrative expenses. She said that would “not meet the minimum maintenance of effort to provide mandated programs as is required by law.”

“These cuts do not save taxpayers money but serve to reduce services that the County is required to provide to protect the health and safety of the community,” Hambley’s response to Gibbs reads in part. “It strips citizens of the services they are guaranteed under the law and the rights they are granted under the Michigan Constitution. These actions are not fiscally conservative but fiscally, and legally, irresponsible.”

Hambley also criticized an instruction to present her budget “discontinuing all COVID-related grants,” saying that while those grants may have COVID in the name or description, “they are designed to cover various public health purposes including preventing the spread of communicable disease and health risks other than COVID-19.”

“This funding request at this level is a real threat to public health and safety in our community,” Hambley told News 8.

After Hambley’s response was released, News 8 reached out to Gibbs late Thursday evening, after regular business hours, seeking comment.

But on Wednesday, before Hambley completed her response, Gibbs told News 8 in a statement that it was “perfectly reasonable” to expect the health department’s budget to “match their average levels over the pre-COVID period.”

A public hearing on the budget is set for Sept. 12. Final approval will come Sept. 26.

Abigail Nobel
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Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 233

Budget time has come to a boil in Michigan counties, and Ottawa BOC recently responded to the hue and cry of negative nationwide publicity (above).

Published by Board Chair Joe Moss, here is a sampling of the facts they present on cutting the Ottawa County budget back to pre-COVID levels.

Q: What is the budget process for Ottawa County?

A: The first budget draft for fiscal year 2024 was provided to the Finance and Administration Committee on August 1, 2023, built on the budget requests of county departments. This year, the Finance Committee added two public work sessions to the budget process.

The budget process includes the following:

  • August 10, 2023, Finance Committee, Special Work Session
  • August 21, 2023, Finance Committee, Special Work Session
  • September 12, 2023, Public Hearing on the Budget
  • September 19, 2023, Finance Committee to vote to forward a proposed 2024 Budget to the full Board of Commissioners
  • September 26, 2023, Board of Commissioners to vote to finalize a FY24 budget for Ottawa County

As the Finance Committee considers the budget, adjustments are made based on details requested and provided by the Administrator, Fiscal Services, elected officials, appointed officials, and department heads.

A public hearing on the budget will be held on September 12, 2023. The Finance Committee will vote on September 19, 2023, to forward a proposed 2024 Budget to the full Board of Commissioners for consideration. A final budget will be voted on by the full Board of Commissioners on September 26, 2023.


Q: Were positions added for the COVID-19 response?

A: On 8/24/21, the prior Board approved $2.1M for 17 full-time, benefited positions, and 25 part-time non-benefited positions to respond to COVID-19. When these positions were approved in 2021, they were approved with the recognition that the positions were being used for the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DPH’s total personnel is one-third higher than the last pre-COVID year, jumping from around 90, to a current level of 120, only a few years later. This 33% increase far outpaces County population growth and inflation over that period. This number should return to normal levels.

Q: Will Children’s Special Health Care Services or the Maternal and Infant Health Program be closed or services reduced?

A: Absolutely not.


Full article has graphs and much more.

So... What's up in your county??

Reputable Member
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Topic starter  

Ottawa County Commissioners delivered a budget with only modest cuts to their health care budget.  Despite the scorched earth legal wrangling, the Ottawa Board of Commissioners is now moving ahead to fire their truculent Administrative Health Officer, with a few defections:

Ottawa County board to decide whether to fire health officer
By Rachel Van Gilder - September 27, 2023

OLIVE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A hearing has been scheduled for the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners to discuss removing Administrative Health Officer Adeline Hambley from her job.

The commission’s special meeting is scheduled for Oct. 19 at the county administration building in West Olive, according to a notice signed by Board Chair Joe Moss and dated Tuesday.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Hambley’s attorney filed motions asking the Michigan Court of Appeals to issue an emergency order to stop the hearing from happening.

“Moss, without the entire Board of Commission issuing the charges, intends to put on a sham hearing to fire Hambley,” one of the motions reads in part.

Moss and other commissioners backed by conservative political action committee Ottawa Impact have been trying to fire Hambley since they took office in January. She filed a lawsuit to stop the ouster. Current court instruction says she may not be fired without cause, as required by state law.

The document announcing the removal hearing lays out the actions that county leaders are now pointing to as cause, arguing Hambley has demonstrated incompetence, misconduct and neglect of duty.

The charges against her center around the recent battle over the health department’s budget for the upcoming year. The document says Hambley did not provide budget scenarios as requested and that she “made false claims” about the budgeting process and its effects, causing “confusion, anxiety, fear and panic.”

After being asked by county Administrator John Gibbs to create a budget limited to $2.5 million from the general fund, Hambley spoke publicly about how the dollar amount was not sufficient and released a document saying it would cause the Ottawa County Department of Public Health to close.

“Ms. Hambley knew that any request for proposed budgetary scenarios were not final or binding…” the notice of the hearing said in part. “Yet, instead of responding professionally and competently … Ms. Hambley ran to the media claiming that the Health Department may be shut down. Her actions incited fear and panic in the community.”

The charges in the document argue that Hambley acted “dishonestly” and “in bad faith” during the budgeting process. The notice says that if Hambley had concerns about proposed funding, she should have “worked towards a solution” with Gibbs but instead “attack(ed) and impugn(ed) his and the (board of commissioners’) motives.”

“While it is always acceptable to publicly criticize an officially proposed budget that has been presented to the Fiance Committee or the BOC, it is wholly inappropriate to present internal budgetary questions to the public as they are formal and/or finalized proposals and then stoke fear and panic based upon misrepresentations and misinterpretations of those internal and preliminary budgeting questions,” the document reads.

Hambley did not comment on the hearing for her removal, instead pointing to the response her attorney sent to the county’s counsel. The documents provided show David Kallman, the board’s attorney, emailed Hambley’s lawyer Sarah Howard shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday to warn her that the notice for the removal hearing was forthcoming.

“I wanted to reach out and see if there is any interest from your client to resolve all her disputes amicably with one global resolution where the parties can go their separate ways,” Kallman wrote.

The answer to that question was no:

“(Hambley) is not interested in a negotiated resolution of her case which would involve her resignation or her removal as Health Officer,” Howard replied in an email Wednesday morning. “Accordingly, we intend to oppose the charges at the proceeding…”

In her motions filed with the Michigan Court of Appeals, Howard asked that the matter of the hearing be dealt with before Oct. 11, when the court is scheduled to hear arguments over Hambley’s suit against the commissioners. Her motion for a stay pointed out that in an order on Sept. 5, the court warned everyone involved “that they proceed at their own peril if they take substantial actions” before the Oct. 11 arguments.

“It only took three weeks for Appellant Joe Moss to take one of the ‘substantial actions’ about which this court cautioned,” the motion reads in part.

The hearing for removal, Howard said, will likely happen before the appeals court issues a ruling regarding what it hears Oct. 11.

“Appellants have made multiple public statements over the last several weeks indicating that they are likely planning a sham termination of Appellee Hambley, and now they have announced plans to move forward before this Court can realistically rule on the merits of the appeal in this case,” the motion for stay reads.

In her email to Kallman, Howard objected to the county’s “unilateral selection” of a judge to preside over the hearing and said she wanted to speak with him about how the hearing would work, including how testimony and exhibits would be presented and whether Hambley and Howard would be able to call their own witnesses. In her motion to stay, she said she will need time before the hearing for discovery and to subpoena witnesses.

“Even if Appellants’ act was not an attempt at an end-run around this Court, which it is, there is no way for Appellee Hambley to have a hearing which comports with the federal and state due process required by October 19, 2023, in any event,” the motion says.

Commissioners passed the county’s budget early Wednesday after an hourslong meeting. It allocated $4.8 million to the health department for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. Hambley had asked for $6.4 million.

County leaders touted the budget as “fiscally responsible and the process as “the most transparent” in the county’s history, “incorporating for the first time an easier-to-understand format, information on grants and payments, and additional work sessions for Commissioners and the public to engage in the process,” Gibbs said in a statement.

Gibbs declined a request for an on-camera interview.

In a statement discussing the budget, not the hearing for removal, Hambley reiterated that it “includes cuts to mandated health education, and nutrition and wellness programs, as well as a reduction in funding for one epidemiologist for disease surveillance.”

Hambley told News 8 that she will try to limit the impact of those cuts.

“The bulk of our budget is people. There’s not a whole lot of operational excess or non-people costs that we can cut,” she said in an interview. “We are looking at some different options. If we can reduce hours or close external branches, that’s one of the few non-people costs I have. So we have a branch in Grand Haven that provides some services and we have one in Hudsonville.”

She said other departments have not been asked to make similar cuts to their budgets.

“Some of the commissioners ran on a platform of wanting to take action against the health department because of being angry about actions during COVID,” Hambley said. “I think that this is part of making that promise of retaliating against the health department for actions they didn’t like during COVID.”

Moss got involved in county politics and formed Ottawa Impact after the Ottawa County health department shut down his kids’ school in October 2020 for ignoring mask mandates.

In January, Ottawa Impact commissioners moved to replace Hambley with Nathaniel Kelly, who works as a safety manager at a Grand Rapids heating and cooling system service and repair company and who has criticized COVID-19 mitigation measures like wearing masks and social distancing. Under state law, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services must approve the appointment of health officers. As of Wednesday, MDHHS had not received an application for Kelly, a spokesperson told News 8.



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