County Commissioners To Reconsider State Of Emergency Declaration
March 26, 2021
By Mike Kruzman & Jon King / firstname.lastname@example.org
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story indicated that Commission Board Chair Wes Nakagiri had not returned our call for comment. It has now been brought to our attention that he did return our message, but that due to a miscommunication on WHMI's part, that fact was not passed on to the proper individuals. We apologize for the error.
A special meeting has been called by the Livingston County Board of Commissioners to reconsider the recently approved declaration of a local state of emergency.
On Monday, following nearly four hours of debate, the Board passed the resolution 5-4 allowing for virtual meetings to continue throughout the county if the local governing bodies should want to. However, this coming Monday they have called a special meeting to reconsider it.
There is speculation that one of the commissioners who voted to approve the resolution on Monday has decided to change their vote. Voting in favor of that resolution were Commissioners Kate Lawrence, Jay Gross, Carol Griffith, Carol Sue Reader, and Brenda Plank. Voting against were Mitchell Zajac, Wes Nakagiri, Doug Helzerman, and Jay Drick.
In reaction to the announcement of the special meeting by the all-Republican board, Judy Daubenmier, Chair of the Livingston County Democrats, issued a statement blasting the decision. "Our county commission wasted more than four hours of the public’s time earlier this week on debating the staff’s very reasonable request for a declaration of emergency that would allow local governmental bodies to meet remotely for the next 60 days due to the covid pandemic. Revisiting this is the height of idiocy. They are playing politics with people’s health just to uphold the Big Lie that covid isn’t real. They are a disgrace and a danger to public health. I really would like to know what favors were handed out to get someone to change their vote to allow reconsideration of this measure."
The decision to reconsider the motion has left local municipalities in the lurch, with several having planned on and expected the county to act. Now that it appears the commissioners are intent on rescinding their own resolution, they are scrambling to come into legal compliance.
At Thursday night’s special meeting of the Brighton City Council, Police Chief Rob Bradford shared insight and said County Emergency Manager Therese Cremonte has reached out to local bodies in preparation for a reversal. Bradford told Council, “The vote that passed on Monday- there was concern that one of the members was going to withdraw that vote and change it, which would make this resolution by County null and- it wouldn’t pass. She (Cremonte) has to have a signed copy of the declaration to put in (to the state) for it to be effective, anyway. And as of yesterday, she did not have that. And she was not anticipating on actually receiving that. And that was her big concern.”
The declaration from the county level would allow the 20 municipalities under it to fall under its “umbrella” of protection and continue meeting virtually if they want. They would not be compelled to do so. Those municipalities can each declare their own emergency, if they choose, not needing the county to do so. Time is a factor, however, with the state’s declaration expiring at the end of the month.
Brighton, last night, approved their own local state of emergency declaration, joining several others in the county wishing to remain virtual for the time being.
Thursday, the state announced 5,224 new COVID-19 cases- the highest amount of the year, and largest since December 10th.
Chief Bradford said, to a matter which applies to all local bodies, that if they meet in person after April 1st without being under a state of emergency then they have tough choices to make if many members of the public show up. One is to turn away anyone after reaching 25 people in the room and being in violation of the Open Meetings Act. Another choice is to let the extra people in and be in violation of the MDHHS’s executive order. In either of those situations, a governing body risks fines and/or a misdemeanor. A third option is to cancel the meeting if too many people show up. Chief Bradford confirmed that the limit is 25 people no matter the size of the room.
The County Board will meet to reconsider their resolution, Monday, at 5:30pm, over Zoom.