By Mike Kruzman /

A committee of Livingston County Commissioners has taken the first step towards changing Board rules to allow for hybrid meetings going forward.

Board of Commissioners Chair Wes Nakagiri presented a resolution that amends the Board’s Public Meetings Rules of 2021 to the General Government and Health and Human Services Committee, Monday. The new rules allow for both in-person and online participation from the public. Nakagiri said the amendment helps illustrate that they look at their meeting room not as 2 separate locations, but as one location that has a virtual component and a physical opponent. It will still be first-come, first-serve for seating in the Board Room, but Nakagiri said people will now have a greater number of options. He explained, If you don’t get there early enough or people get there earlier than you, then you might not get a front-row seat. In a similar fashion, we have… a situation where you have the state’s health order saying you’re limited to X amount of people. We ask that people come in later participate by Zoom. In fact, we’ve enhanced that and intend to have a Zoom overflow room.”

Monday’s meeting was held hybrid-style with an overflow room visible on Zoom. Nearly a dozen members of the public spoke during the meeting, nearly all of them espousing anti-mask sentiments and urging Commissioners to reject state health department orders, and more than once referring to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as a "tyrant."

Nakagiri said the purpose of the meeting was to put in writing what their policy is so that there is no misunderstanding.

Commissioner Doug Helzerman, who began the meeting with a nearly 15-minute PowerPoint presentation casting doubt on the efficacy of face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, said that COVID made them make this choice, and maybe this policy is something good coming out of it. It should be noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just last month issued a report noting that mask mandates adopted last year were linked to almost a 2% drop in new COVID cases within 100 days of adoption.

Committee Chair Mitchell Zajac also saw this as an opportunity to go forward as they work out the bugs and get the equipment to facilitate modern access to government. “Bugs” could still be worked out as Committee members were participating while wearing masks, making for a muffled and difficult-to-follow meeting over Zoom.

The resolution passed unanimously through the four-member Committee and will now go to the full Board for consideration.