LANSING, Mich. — The top health official in one of Michigan’s largest counties is asking a judge to confirm a $4 million settlement in exchange for her resignation, after months of conflict with local conservative leaders who were elected in response to the restrictions. of COVID-19.
Ottawa County leaders attempted to oust Adeline Hambley in January after they took majority control of the county board of commissioners. Unable to do so, the board opted to offer her $4 million, equivalent to a quarter of the health department’s 2024 budget, in exchange for her resignation. She also would have had to drop her lawsuit against the county.
The board withdrew the offer, saying it was only a “tentative settlement agreement.” David Kallman, county legal counsel, told The Associated Press that “there has never been an agreement by the board to accept the $4 million. “There were discussions.”
But Hambley’s attorney filed a motion Thursday to enforce the agreement, and he is scheduled to appear before a judge on Nov. 27.
“The parties agreed to resolve this matter on November 6, 2023. Now, the defendants are remorseful and want out of the deal,” Hambley’s attorney, Sarah Riley-Howard, wrote in the filing.
Public health officials and local health departments across the country became political targets during the pandemic due to closures and restrictions.
The Ottawa County Health Department serves 300,000 residents in the western part of the state. Earlier this year, county commissioners voted to cut the department’s next budget by nearly $4 million. The board had threatened deeper cuts and Hambley took to social media to protest.
The county’s 11-member board of commissioners was transformed last year when eight incumbents were defeated by a slate of rivals closely tied to a group known as Ottawa Impact, which formed in 2021 in part in response to mask mandates in the county. county.
Hambley sued the commissioners earlier this year for “termination in violation of public policy.” In October, the state appeals court ruled that Hambley could only be fired for “just cause.”
But after a nearly eight-hour closed-door session at a Nov. 6 meeting, commissioners voted to “accept counsel’s recommendation regarding litigation and conciliation activities” regarding Hambley. It was later revealed that the deal was for $4 million, in exchange for Hambley’s resignation.
Hambley would work until at least Nov. 30, but no later than Dec. 15 under the agreement.
Nathaniel Kelly, a safety manager for an HVAC company who has no public health experience, is in line to take over the county health department.
The county requested approval from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for Kelly to serve as interim health officer, but the state told the county it could not name a health officer until a vacancy existed, according to a spokesperson for the county. department.