OLIVE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Some of Ottawa County’s new conservative commissioners have raised questions about the process their colleagues used to select a new head of the county’s health department.

The hiring of Nathaniel Kelly came during a meeting of the Board of Commissioners’ Committee on Health and Human Services after Commissioner Gretchen Cosby added an agenda item to discuss his credentials.

Transition to the board meeting on January 3 to remove the administrative health worker and replace her with Kelly was also an addition to the agenda of the meeting. Some have said that actions demonstrate a lack of transparency by a new council majority backed by the conservative Ottawa Impact PAC.

Kelly, a safety manager at an HVAC company in Grand Rapids, shows up an outspoken critic of COVID-19 mitigation protocols like social distancing and wearing masks.

Questions about the hiring process were raised by commissioner Rebecca Curran, supported by Ottawa Impact.

“One of the things I hear from my constituents is, ‘What exactly was the process?’ How many applicants were considered and which applicants were considered?” Curran said.

“Well, I would say we’re not going to go back and review the decision,” Commissioner Silvia Rodeo replied.

“I did not ask to reconsider the decision. I asked to answer those questions,” said Curran.

At the time, board chairman Joe Moss, who also runs the Ottawa Impact, said Kelly would have a strong team to support him.

Jacob Bonham, another Ottawa Impact commissioner, later returned to challenge the hiring process.

“I just want to say that Commissioner Curran asked a question, but I haven’t heard an answer to it,” he said. “So I just wanted to get back to it again. Could you answer your question again?”

“It’s already 11 o’clock. I was wondering if I could make a motion for a short adjournment,” Moss jumped in.

The motion was defeated by one vote, forcing Cosby to answer the question.

“Because of the current atmosphere, I don’t feel the need to share the other contenders,” she said.

She said it would be unfair to name other people the council was considering as health professionals when they had not formally applied.

“That’s totally fair,” Curran said. “Then my question turns to how many applicants were considered: that’s just a number. And how then was the application process actually brought to the public’s attention or how did the application process take place?”

“The application was made at my direction, I believe it was through Ottawa Impact…” Cosby said.

She said she couldn’t remember exactly how many more applicants there were, but said she would find the number.

The board’s lone Democrat, Doug Zylstra, expressed his belief that the commission does not have the authority to fire and replace the county’s medical officer. There is still no final decision on this matter.

Kelly still has to submit a completed application, after which the state health department will review his credentials and approve his appointment.

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