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Judge says Ottawa County Public Health Officer keeps her job, for now

Adeline Hambley's LinkedIn Profile
Ottawa County Public Health Officer Adeline Hambley

Adeline Hambley had been fired by Board of Commissioners, judge says matter will be resolved in court.

A judge said Tuesday that Ottawa County’s top public health official will keep her job after the Board of Commissioners tried to remove her from office earlier this year.

Muskegon Circuit Court Judge Jenny McNeill issued a preliminary injunction, ordering the reinstatement of Ottawa County Public Officer Adeline Hambley, until the matter can be resolved in court.

Back in January, the newly elected Ottawa County Board of Commissioners had voted to fire public health officer Hambley.

As grounds for her termination, members of the commission had tried to label her appointment as null and void, arguing the county had only voted on a resolution to hire her but did hold a second vote to officially bring her on board.

Commissioner Jacob Bonnema accused the commission of planning semantics in order to fire Hambley.

“All eleven of us, voted to hire Adeline at that meeting,” he said. “It did happen.”

And the court agreed. In her opinion Tuesday, Judge McNeill wrote that “there is no logical reason for the Board to vote twice on this issue,” adding that “a Health officer must be either incompetent or engaging in misconduct or neglect of duty,” as grounds for termination.

Last week, the Ottawa County Department of Public Health announced it had received national Recognition for its Public Health Emergency and Disaster Response Planning as well as recognition from the state for its “untiring commitment to the health and safety of the community.”

Many viewed Hambley’s termination as political payback for government ordered protocols such as mask requirements during the pandemic.

The Commission had elected to hire Nathaniel Kelly as her replacement, who has been outspoken against mask rules and getting the COVID-19 vaccine in the past.