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Ottawa County Board to hold hearing to remove health officer

Ottawa County Board to hold hearing to remove health officer

While the board passed the budget, commissioners and Administrative Health Officer Adeline Hambley have opposite views on qualifiers.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Michigan — For the second time this year, the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners is moving forward with plans to remove the health officer from her post. 

Calls for her removal stem from disputes over the health budget. 

Board Chair Joseph Moss said “…Ms. Hamley is incompetent, engaged in misconduct and habitual or willful neglect of duty. Ms. Hambley cannot be depended on upon to act professionally and in good faith in one of the most crucial duties of the Board of Commissioners, the budget process.” 

You can read the full notice of hearing here

The removal hearing is set for 8 a.m. on Oct. 19. 

This is not the first time the board has tried to remove Hambley from her post. The newly-elected board voted on Jan. 3 that they would make Hambley the Interim Health Officer while they worked to hire Nathaniel Kelly for that position. Kelly has been an outspoken critic of pandemic safety measures like masking and social distancing. 

The Michigan Court of Appeals vacated an order by a Muskegon County judge that prevented Ottawa County from firing its top health officer.

Back in April, Judge Jenny McNeill put a temporary injunction in place, saying the board could only remove Adeline Hambley if she is incompetent or is engaging in misconduct, which the county has not alleged.

Court of Appeals Judge Mark Boonstra tossed out the order, saying state law allows a county board to remove a health officer in limited circumstances and when certain processes are given.

Ottawa County shared in a press release that this year’s budget process “concludes the most transparent budget process in county history.” 

You can review some points they use to back up that claim here. 

The budget in Ottawa County has been heavily debated for weeks, largely because of potential health department cuts. County Health Officer Adeline Hambley is one of dozens of people who spoke against the cuts.

According to budget documents, the adopted FY24 budget includes $4,873,790 in operating transfers to the county’s public health fund. Numbers obtained from the Health Department claim this is the amount of general funds the department will receive from the county, down from the more than $6 million originally requested by the department, but up from the $2.5 million mark that had been floated by some commissioners and blasted by Hambley as having the potential to close the department’s doors weeks into the new fiscal year.

Administrator John Gibbs said he believes the budget passed on Tuesday meets all state minimum requirements for the health department, which Hambley had had concerns about during previous discussions.

The budget passed with a 7-3 vote, with the new budget taking effect Sunday, Oct. 1.

Here’s Adeline Hambley’s response to the budget refuting Commissioner Moss’ statement that the approved budget is the second-highest level in the past 15 years for public health among other things:

Earlier this year, Hambley filed a lawsuit against Ottawa County and seven out of the eight new commissioners who took office in January. The lawsuit states “the demotion of Hambley to ‘Interim’ Health officer was a constructive termination of her employment as the Health Officer for the County.” 

The lawsuit asks a judge to remove the “Interim” designation and award Hambley an unspecified amount of punitive damages.  

That legal dispute is ongoing. 

RELATED: Ottawa Co. Board of Commissioners approves budget after weeks of discussion

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