A prolonged dispute between a Michigan health official and county commissioners is now playing out in court.
According to reports, Adeline Hambley had been at odds with the Ottawa County board’s conservative majority for nearly a year over a difference in opinion regarding issues including COVID-19 restrictions. She claims that when commissioners failed to force her out of the position, they offered her $4 million to resign and drop an ongoing lawsuit against the county.
For its part, however, the board insists that there was no such deal on the table. David Kallman, an attorney representing the county, argued that there were “discussions” about such a payout, but it was only a “tentative settlement agreement” and “there has never been an agreement by the board to accept the $4 million.”
Hambley wants a judge to decide the case and has filed a motion expected to be heard in court later this month.
Her attorney, Sarah Riley-Howard, insisted that the two sides “agreed to settle this matter on Nov. 6, 2023” but accused commissioners of wanting “out of the deal” due to “remorse” over the terms of the supposed agreement.
A closed-door meeting on that date reportedly lasted for eight hours and resulted in the tentative terms of the agreement, which would require Hambley to work until sometime between Nov. 30 and Dec. 15 and receive the multimillion-dollar settlement in exchange for her resignation thereafter.
The negotiation itself came in response to an appeals court ruling last month determining that the board of commissioners must demonstrate “just cause” in order to fire the health official.
The dispute is poised to take an additional toll on the county government, which was already shaken up when voters decided to replace eight incumbent commissioners with conservative candidates as an electoral protest to the county’s enforcement of mask mandates and other pandemic-related regulations.
During public comment two years ago, one person spoke against the weaponization of the Health Department, closing with:
“I hope we get some brave hearts up here, because there has been lot of blood that has been shed for our freedoms.”
— Ottawa Impact (@OttawaImpact) August 24, 2023
One of those Republican commissioners announced on Thursday that he would be stepping down from the post. Although Kyle Terpstra’s resignation came on the heels of Hambley’s motion, he did not mention the situation directly, stating only that “significant changes in [his] personal and professional life” led to his decision.