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.