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  • Writer's pictureERG

Well, That Was Quick

The May 2nd meeting of the Board of Health of the Health Department of Northwest Michigan came to an abrupt conclusion when Commissioner Jarris Rubingh (Antrim), Commissioner Rich Ginop (Emmet), Commissioner Henry Mason (Otsego), and Commissioner Jon Turnbull (Otsego) all voted to not approve the agenda. At issue was Agenda item 12 b 2 which reads: “Recommendation of the Program and Evaluation Committee to not apply for the Michigan Health Endowment Fund – 2023 Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles Initiative (Action Needed to Accept Recommendation).”

This committee, which has four members – Commissioners Turnbull and Rubingh, as well as Commissioner Don Mapes (Emmet) and Commissioner Josh Chamberlain (Charlevoix) voted 2-2 to decline applying for this two year grant. (We’ve blogged about this controversial two-year - up to $500,000 grant - here.)

The debate during yesterday’s meeting, centered largely not on the school-centric nutrition education grant or a recipient (a Grand Traverse County non-profit), but on procedure. ‘Since the program committee made a recommendation to NOT apply for this non-statutory grant, there was no need to bring the item before the full board for a vote’ was one argument. The ‘bylaws don’t give the committee the final authority to make a decision’ was the counterargument.

Robert’s Rules of Orders, the universal guide to parliamentary procedure, were interpreted differently by the two factions, but in the end the ‘bill died in committee’ contingent prevailed.

Overall, it was an educational exchange marred only by Commissioner Dawn LaVanway’s (Antrim) gratuitous swipe at Commissioner Rubingh, et. al. “We do not have anything in our bylaws that say your committee was given authority to make that decision. You did not have an Open Meetings Act that you followed, and you’re wrong, and to push your little agenda is wrong … Shame on you people,” she said.

There is no credible evidence that the OMA was violated. In the past, not all health board committee matters, such as those from the Finance Committee which LaVanway chairs, have come before the full board of eight commissioners members.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Mason cryptically complained about “intimidating commissioners with smirks from the board.”

No doubt some members of the public who traveled a good distance to offer comment, were disappointed by the abrupt close to the meeting, which is understandable. ERG, however, remains appreciative of consistency in governance, which is a trait that this Board of Health has lacked in the past. We look forward to future meetings with clear policy guidelines.

Do watch the meeting; it won’t take long.



May 05, 2023

Saw this piece and thought it was interesting and helpful:

The failed meeting of the Board of Health (BOH) for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan on Tuesday, May 2, was the result of a complete misunderstanding of the board’s bylaws, Roberts Rules of Order and Michigan’s Open Meetings Act regarding the duties of a board committee. Because of that, the board could not agree on an agenda and the meeting was over before it started.

Reports on the meeting were in both the Traverse City Record-Eagle ( and the Petoskey News-Review.

Clarifying points regarding the controversial committee:

    •    The board committee charged with reviewing new grant applications by health department staff is made up of four commissioners, one…


May 03, 2023

Thank you Commissioners Rubingh, Ginop, Mason, and Turnbull! You're doing a great job. Stay vigilant!


May 03, 2023

As a point of fact, Finance doesn’t need to be OPEN if they bring their business to the full Board for action. Roberts Rules are clear on this.


May 03, 2023

Leave the professional decisions up to the professionals-- health and educational. They know what is best and leave the political (petty and dysfunctional) agendas out of it.

May 07, 2023
Replying to

"politically motivated covid response" prevented many people from getting covid and death- maybe even you or someone you love. Those of us who survived experienced the freedom of not dying from a deadly virus (as of 3/23, 42,311 MI deaths), not to mention long covid from which many thousands continue to suffer. And, remember, at the time, we were still learning about the virus and didn't know everything we do now. We should be thanking them for their professional decisions. Time to take politics out of decision-making and analyze the science for informed policy.

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