Ottawa County Chair Denies $4 Million Settlement Agreement, Sparks Controversy

OTTAWA COUNTY, MI – The chair of the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners has accused the local media of fabricating a $4 million settlement agreement between the board and the county’s health officer in November. However, a recent court filing disputes this claim and states that a circuit court judge found that an agreement was indeed reached and approved by a majority of board members during a closed session. The subsequent motion made by the board chair, however, was deemed too ambiguous to ratify the agreement. The settlement, which included a payment of $4 million to the health officer and the resignation of the deputy health officer, remains unenforceable as a result.

Last week, an evidentiary hearing was held in Muskegon County’s 14th Circuit Court to address the matter. The judge ruled that four commissioners who were subpoenaed to testify did not have to do so, and further declared the settlement agreement unenforceable. The hearing was initially public but later closed to the public to protect the testimony from being made public.

The board voted on the settlement agreement in November, following an eight-hour closed session. However, the terms of the agreement were not made clear during the public vote, rendering it ineffective according to Michigan’s Open Meetings Act. The health officer’s attorney plans to appeal the judge’s decision, citing concerns about the lack of transparency in the process.

In an amended complaint filed in late November, the health officer’s attorney argued that the board chair’s resolution was illegal as it violated the Open Meetings Act. The attorney also raised concerns about the lack of clarity and transparency in the board’s decision-making process.

As the legal dispute continues, the health officer and the deputy health officer remain in their positions. The case highlights the importance of clear and transparent decision-making processes for public bodies.

The Holland Sentinel, the local media outlet involved in the dispute, has been accused by the board chair of perpetuating a “$4 million lie” that never existed. The media’s role in reporting on the settlement agreement and its aftermath will likely be scrutinized as the case progresses.

The judge’s ruling and the ongoing legal battle raise questions about the accountability and transparency of public officials and the importance of adhering to the Open Meetings Act. It remains to be seen how this case will ultimately be resolved and what impact it may have on future decision-making processes within Ottawa County.