PETOSKEY — The Emmet County Commission continues to draw packed crowds as the nation debates the correct course of action regarding the county’s representation on the Northwest Michigan Department of Health Board of Health.
At the Sept. 11 board meeting, commissioners voted to remove Rich Ginnop as one of the two board members following an ethics and code of conduct hearing. The motion was approved on a 5-1 vote, and Commissioner Neil Ahrens was appointed to fill the vacancy.
more:Ginop was removed from his seat on the health committee following an ethics hearing.
Reactions to the decision continued this week, with preliminary agenda materials for the Sept. 21 meeting including a request from Ginop to reconsider the board’s decision.
As Thursday’s meeting began, Ahrens made a motion to remove the item from the agenda. The board approved the motion on a 4-3 vote.
“Okay, I think that will take the wind out of our sails for now,” Ginop replied.
The public comment section was once again populated by residents offering their opinions on both sides of the issue.
Mary Lieberman, of Petoskey, presented a long list of Emmet County voters’ names, expressing her “heartfelt gratitude and asking that the Board’s decisions be upheld, and expressing our sincere gratitude and wishing that the community would be proud to represent them.” I want them to know that I support them.”
It took five consecutive speakers to read all the names on the list, starting with Lieberman.
Larry Dyer of Petoskey said he believed the board’s decision to fire Ginop was correct, citing a lack of transparency in the reasons and motivations behind the vote.
“This lack of transparency and voting records that impede the health department’s ability to fulfill its mission is a clear violation of the Emmet County Commission’s Code of Ethics,” Dyer said. “I believe you made the right decision to remove Commissioner Zinop from the Board of Health. Commissioner Zinop has served Emmett County well in other capacities and I believe he will continue to serve Emmett County in the future. However, he should not serve on the Board of Health.”
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Others defended Ginop, saying the board’s actions will only further divide the community.
“What have you got? It’s by design that you gain trust with one group and lose it with another,” said Wido Lyman of Petoskey.
Harbor Springs resident Mark Rybicki said he felt the decision was “unconscionable.”
“I understand that you kicked him out and voted him out because he was exercising his right to free speech, his right to association, his right to self-expression,” he said. “I didn’t know these things could be crimes, but guess what? You, the board, have succeeded in criminalizing and shaming these acts.”
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Later in the meeting, following the committee’s report, Commissioner Don Mapes asked for comment on his support for Ginop.
“I want to say that I regret voting to remove Mr. Rich from the Board of Health the moment the word ‘yes’ left my mouth,” he said. “It could have made no difference to the outcome, but I wanted to reach out and take it back, but obviously I couldn’t. The circumstances leading up to the board’s decision were unfortunate. I too was surprised and stunned by Rich’s answer. But that’s not the rich guy I know, and he apologized afterward, but it didn’t seem to matter.”
The next Emmet County Commission meeting is Oct. 9 at 6 p.m.
— Contact Gillian Fellows at firstname.lastname@example.org.