OLIVE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Some of Ottawa County’s new conservative commissioners raised questions about the process their colleagues employed when selecting a new leader for the county health department.

The conversation about Nathaniel Kelly’s hiring happened during a meeting of the Board of Commissioners’ Health and Human Services Committee after Commissioner Gretchen Cosby added an item to the agenda to discuss his credentials.

The move at the board’s Jan. 3 meeting to oust its administrative health officer and replace her with Kelly was also an in-meeting addition to the agenda. Some have said the actions demonstrate a lack of transparency by the board’s new majority backed by the conservative Ottawa Impact PAC.

Kelly, a safety manager for an HVAC company in Grand Rapids, is an outspoken critic of COVID-19 mitigation protocols like social distancing and wearing masks.

The questions about the hiring process were raised by Commissioner Rebekah Curran, who was backed by Ottawa Impact.

“One of the things I hear from my constituents is, ‘What exactly was the process?’ How many applicants were considered and what applicants were considered?” Curran said.

“Well, I would say we’re not going back and rehashing the decision,” Commissioner Sylvia Rhodea replied.

“I didn’t ask to rehash the decision. What I asked was that these questions be answered,” Curran said.

At that point, board Chair Joe Moss, who also runs Ottawa Impact, said Kelly will have a strong team supporting him.

Later, Jacob Bonnema, another Ottawa Impact commissioner, circled back to challenge the hiring process.

“I just want to say I think Commissioner Curran asked a question and I didn’t hear an answer to it,” he said. “So I just wanted to come back to that again. Could you answer your question one more time?”

“It’s 11 o’clock. I was wondering if I could make a motion for a short recess,” Moss jumped in.

The motion failed by one vote, forcing Cosby to answer the question.

“Due to the current atmosphere, I don’t feel compelled to share other applicants,” she said.

She said it wouldn’t be fair to name other people the board considered for health officer unless they officially submitted an application.

“That’s fair enough,” Curran said. “Then my question then turns into how many applicants were considered: that’s just a number. And then how was the application process actually put out to the public or how was the application process conducted?”

“The application came my direction, I believe that was through Ottawa Impact…” Cosby said.

She said she couldn’t remember exactly how many other applicants there were but said she would find the number.

The board’s lone Democrat, Doug Zylstra, voiced his belief that the commission had no authority to remove and replace the county’s health officer. There’s still no definitive determination on that.

Kelly still has to submit his completed application, after which the state health department will look into his credentials and approve his appointment.