This was posted by one of my colleagues, County Commissioner Gretchen Cosby. I appreciate the information she provides regarding recent spending and would like to share it here:
The new Ottawa County Board of Commissioners has been in office for seven months.
The legacy media would like community members to think the new board has been creating fires.
In reality, we have been identifying issues and seeking solutions, just as we promised we’d do.
One of our most complex issues has been scrutinizing the state of affairs left by the previous board.
I would like the interested reader to get a glimpse into what the new Board of Commissioners “inherited” from past management. Here are four sample areas to consider:
- It is reported that the current Corporation Counsel exceeded the 2023 budget by approximately $100,000. Why?
- Corporation Counsel (Kallman Legal Group) has been combing through 42 years of neglected, inconsistent contracts with vendors which have left the county potentially liable or at risk.
- In January of 2023, Kallman Legal Group agreed to replicate the previous Corporation Counsel’s contract of three days per week at $225 an hour. In reviewing, revising, and standardizing county contract processes, Kallman Legal Group surpassed the contracted three days per week and, as such, has donated approximately $125,000 of legal fees to support the community, even though this was not required by their contract.
- Kallman Legal has been successful in their defense of the county.
- The Ottawa County Health Department requested approval of a $10,000 grant for one door to meet Americans with Disabilities (ADA) requirements, and for lights that will accommodate sensory sensitivity.
- What the Board of Commissioners (BOC) discovered is that there are many county buildings that are not ADA compliant, and a capital expenditure is required. Why was ADA compliance not handled in the past?
- Administrator John Gibbs has directed the Facilities Director to complete an ADA assessment of the county buildings and provide the Administrator and BOC an estimate of cost before the capital budget planning process.
- The current BOC now has an opportunity to make all county buildings meet ADA requirements.
- The question is, why didn’t the previous BOC address ADA needs with the $57 million in ARPA funding?
- The local legacy media writes narratives about the current BOC’s supposed “waste” of county taxpayers dollars. Did you know:
- Former County Administrator John Shay was given a one-year severance package. The current BOC members have asked if Mr. Shay’s severance package was common practice in county government.
- Mr. Shay hired Attorney Doug Van Essen as an employee of the County Corporation Department on January 1, 2023, without the new BOC’s knowledge. Commissioner Cosby asked the Human Resources Director in an email: When was the position posted? How many applicants did the Administrator interview? Did the Administrator follow County hiring policies? No answer was received.
- During the October 18, 2022 BOC meeting, Commissioner Doug Zylstra requested severance packages for management level and above at the county. Why? This is outside the common practice for local government.
- Sheriff Kempker and the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office applied for, but were denied, ARPA funding to provide body cameras for their deputies.
- The department did not receive ARPA funding. Instead, the former board allocated funding to outside agencies and social programs.
- The new BOC will work with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office to allocate funding for body cameras and has been in active talks with the Sheriff’s Office and Administration about these needs.
There is much to unwind in Ottawa County local government. It is an honor to serve the people of Ottawa County and seek solutions that put the people first, just as we promised.