OLIVE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Ottawa County is moving forward with its plans to replace health officer Adeline Hambley amid the layoff of six health department workers due to budget cuts approved by commissioners.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said credential paperwork has been submitted for Nathaniel Kelly, Ottawa County Board of Commissioners’ pick for interim health officer in the January motion to oust Hambley.
“Ottawa County has submitted a request that MDHHS review the credentials/qualifications for Nathaniel Kelly to serve as interim/acting administrative health officer if current health officer Adeline Hambley is removed as the county’s health officer,” said Chelsea Wuth, an associate public information officer with the state health department. “MDHHS is reviewing at this time.”
She said County Administrator John Gibbs submitted the “request for immediate credentials review” on Sept. 29, along with a copy of Kelly’s resume. His transcripts were received Oct. 4, according to Wuth.
This comes after six Ottawa County Department of Public Health workers were laid off following the commissioners’ vote to return the department’s budget to pre-COVID-19 levels. Those employees had been hired with COVID-19 grants.
“Me and the five others also under the COVID-19 funding and got laid off recently because of the budget concerns,” said former Ottawa County health department worker Aaron Stauffer.
He said lower customer service and several community initiatives will not be able to be provided as widely by the Ottawa County health department. Stauffer said the COVID-19 funds went beyond the pandemic and helped the department work faster.
“A lot of those positions were using the funds for things totally unrelated other than Covid. So, it’s really frustrating to see the money there and not being used. It kind of feels like it’s being wasted just because there is a specific agenda going on,” Stauffer said.
“It’s pretty easy to see they’ve had an agenda,” he added. “The COVID-19 was unfortunately a divisive situation and the issues with masking and the mandates, which a lot of them were state and federal mandates.”
Stauffer said the layoffs will impact the staff and the community.
“They knew their work is going to suffer because of the staffing concerns and a lot of the projects we were working on, we were supporting them and what they are doing. They are already having to tell their clients that their customer service is going to be a lot lower standards moving forward,” said Stauffer.
He says the controversy has a negative impact on public health and the health department’s morale.
“Already with the changeover and people leaving and being threatened, there is a cloud of uncertainty that’s making it very hard for people to do their normal jobs,” Stauffer said.
Stauffer said he feels as though the health department was targeted by Ottawa Impact-backed commissioners and their agenda.
“A couple years from now, maybe we’ll come back and be the health department that we have been where we are winning awards and we are one of the best health departments in the state, But for now we’re going to just have to do our best,” Stauffer said.
News 8 reached out to Ottawa County commissioners and have not received a response.
Commissioners will vote on whether to remove health officer Adeline Hambley at a special meeting at 8 a.m. on Oct. 19 at the county administration building.