OLIVE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The lone Republican on the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners who was not endorsed by the conservative Ottawa Impact group said he’s had enough.
“Tired of the nonsense,” Commissioner Roger Bergman told News 8 Wednesday. “Tired of poor governance.”
Bergman walked out of Tuesday night’s meeting after the board, in a 6-5 vote, changed the resolution passed by the previous board in December that made Adeline Hambley the county’s top health officer.
“This is foolishness,” Bergman said. “This is nonsense. This should not happen. I just thought, ‘You know what, I’ve had enough of this.’”
Still, Bergman said he will not resign.
“I’ll stick it out because I have to,” he said.
When board Chair Joe Moss and Ottawa Impact commissioners took over in January, they appointed Nathaniel Kelly to replace Hambley as administrative health officer. Hambley, who remains in her position, has since sued the board.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has still not approved Kelly’s appointment, telling News 8 on Tuesday it has not even received the request from Ottawa County.
Moss said during the meeting the revision was meant to correct a flawed resolution.
“There was an error in the actual resolution that was signed,” Moss said.
News 8 called and emailed Joe Moss to get his side of the story, but he did not respond. When News 8 went to his business in Jenison on Wednesday, the person who came to the door said Moss was not available.
Bergman, who was on the board in December, said all 11 commissioners were on the same page about appointing Hambley.
“They’re saying it’s flawed. It’s not flawed,” Bergman said. “We absolutely did vote that day to hire Adeline as our public health director.”
Bergman said Moss is likely trying to vacate her appointment so the slate of Ottawa Impact commissioners can get rid of her.
“Absolutely,” Bergman said. “This is their way of trying to say she was never appointed.”
Doug Zylstra, the lone Democrat on the board, agreed that appears to be what’s happening.
“If you want to say this is to put Adeline Hambley’s status with Ottawa County in doubt, just say it outfront,” Zylstra said. “Just be honest with the residents of Ottawa County.”
He told News 8 it’s clear the board voted to appoint Hambley in December.
“People can have different opinions about who they would like to have been nominated back in December and who they would like to be as health officer now,” Zylstra said. “But to deny reality… It’s a public meeting. It’s on YouTube.”
“The resolution was in front of us in December,” Zylstra added. “Obviously the state of Michigan believes she’s our health officer because they approved her back in December. For me, there’s no doubt that what we did is what we did and that is to appoint her as our health officer.”
The board’s legal counsel Jack Jordan maintained it was simply correcting the record.
“This board speaks through its written resolutions, so they have to be correct,” Jordan said during the Tuesday meeting. “They have to be accurate. And that’s all that’s being done. It’s not changing history. It’s not rewriting the motion. It’s simply correcting the record.”
But Bergman said the move was aimed at combating Hambley’s lawsuit.
“The larger motive is to give our attorney a handle on how to fight off the lawsuit,” he said.
Bergman fears it will only make things worse.
“It gives Adeline and her attorney more ammunition in terms of what they can sue for,” Bergman said. “My personal opinion is, I hope they do. Because it is totally wrong what happened. Last night was totally wrong.”
Multiple Ottawa Impact-endorsed members joined Bergman in voting no, including Jacob Bonnema, Rebekah Curran and Kyle Terpstra.
Bonnema told News 8 he voted against the move because he felt it “crossed the line” and was “unprecedented.”
“At the end of the day when I think about what we’re doing here, I want to walk away tonight knowing that we truthfully represented the will of the prior commissioners out of respect to them,” Bonnema said during the meeting. “I don’t want to be seen as misleading the public as to what was accomplished that night. Just like I wouldn’t want the next commission to mislead anything I voted on.”
Curran and Terpstra did not respond to News 8’s emails asking for comment. But on Tuesday night, Terpstra cast doubt on the move.
“I think all of us up here as commissioners understand why this was brought to us and I’m not going to speak to that,” Terpstra said. “But I believe it’s a pretty big Hail Mary. I don’t think it’s going to land. I believe it’s probably going to land us in a harder situation going forward.”
Zylstra said he was “heartened” that the commissioners joined him and Bergman in voting no.
“They’ve been exercising independence basically since they’ve started right,” Zylstra said. “I really have a lot of respect for commissioners Bonnema, Curran and Terpstra. For them to say the things they said last night and took the votes that they did, I appreciate that. I hope Ottawa County residents appreciate their independence.”
“I think that it just shows there are some of those folks who have some integrity,” Bergman added. “Still have some integrity.”
The next full commission meeting is March 14 at 9 a.m.
Bergman said Moss and other members are “governing to make a point.”
“This is clearly what’s happening,” Bergman said. “They’ve got an axe to grind.”