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New fallout amid proposed Ottawa Co. health department cuts

New fallout amid proposed Ottawa Co. health department cuts

Adeline Hambley said she is looking into ways to continue to communicate quickly with the people who live in her county.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — Ottawa County Administrative Health Officer Adeline Hambley said county administrators have blocked her from using the health department’s social media pages and email.

Last week, she said administrators ordered her to come up with a budget to operate the health department on $3.8 million, instead of Hambley’s requested $6.7 million budget.

Administrators said they planned to allocate $2.5 million from the county’s general fund to go toward the health department, and use additional funds from the health department’s fund to get as close to the $3.8 million budget as possible.

In a press conference on Monday, Hambley said about $1 million is able to be used for the department’s general fund. Another $2 million has been earmarked and cannot be used, but Hambley said the Board of Commissioners could allocate those funds for a different purpose.

Hambley says the budget cuts requested by county leaders would not meet the state minimum funding requirements to receive state allocated funds for mandated services. She says that could force the health department to close.

Hambley posted nearly two dozen times last week on the Ottawa County Health Department’s social media pages detailing why she believes the budget cuts are politically motivated and harmful to the community.

“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 on the department’s Facebook page.

In response, she said she’s been locked out of all those social media accounts. Hambley said she is looking into ways to continue to communicate quickly with the people who live in her county.

“We will be looking to create new channels to be able to communicate credible health information and updates that are of interest to the county residents as soon as possible and provide an update as soon as we have some of that set up,” she said. “Of course, it’s important to the Ottawa County Health Officer, for me to be able to have the powers and duties to inform and speak with the public as soon as possible if there is a threat to health.”

Ottawa County’s board chair Joe Moss and administrator John Gibbs maintain that these budget cuts will not discontinue mandated services or close the health department. They said they just want to return to a pre-pandemic budget, calling Hambley’s statements “political spectacle”.

“For the Director of Public Health to attempt to influence the budget process through media theatrics, instead of good faith conversations with the County Administrator and the Board of Commissioners, is totally inappropriate and unprofessional,” reads a statement released by Moss and Gibbs.

Commissioners are expected to finalize a budget during a public hearing on Sept. 12.

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