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Letter alleges Ottawa County Administrator threatened violence, bugged office

Posted at 6:08 PM, Feb 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-23 23:42:14-05

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — A new letter sheds light on why the Ottawa County administrator may have been put on paid leave

There are allegations that John Gibbs made sexual comments about commissioners, threatened violence and bugged his own office, among other things.

Letter alleges Ottawa County Administrator threatened violence, bugged office

The seven-page letter was sent Friday to Gibbs's attorney from Ottawa County's legal counsel. It came after Gibbs threatened legal action if he was fired, and offered his resignation in exchange for a $630,000 payout. 

Friday's letter does not identify any complainants but touches on several alleged issues.

Threats of violence:

  • "The Administrator has expressed on multiple occasions that he wants to 'beat Jack Jordan to death' for perceived slights and offenses. This came to a head after a December 2023 Insurance Authority meeting. Jordan did nothing that would have warranted such a reaction."

Disparaging comments:

  • "I witnessed Administrator Gibbs make extremely disparaging comments about the female Commissioners, most notably sexual/defamatory comments about Commissioner Gretchen Cosby on multiple occasions."
  • "Administrator Gibbs routinely made derogatory comments about the majority of County Commissioners and Corporation Counsel, claiming their Protestant faith severely impacted their IQ and work ethic."
  • "The Administrator has repeated on several occasions, a bizarre theory about Commissioner Gretchen Cosby being 'out of God's grace' because of a perceived pattern of infidelity, specifically accusing her of cheating on her husband with doctors and patients."

Bugged his office:

  • "Administrator Gibbs had me assist him in bugging his office with a hidden camera fixed on his meeting table to record conversations with Commissioners and County Employees."

Letter From Legal Counsel by WXMI on Scribd

The letter says this information is being provided to Gibbs's attorney so they can respond.

Chairperson Joe Moss shared the letter on his campaign Facebook page Friday.

"Transparency and accountability are hallmarks of representational government in America, a Constitutional Republic. I am sharing this letter with you in that spirit," Moss wrote.

Commissioner Jacob Bonnema filed a complaint with Human Resources against Gibbs in early 2023. It came after Bonnema asked about Nathaniel Kelly's status for the position of health officer. Bonnema explains that Gibbs told him to "get out of my face, dude."

That complaint wasn't included in the letter Moss released.

According to county leaders, the complaint didn't meet and didn't reach the level of harassment.

The board did censure Bonnema from one of his committee seats.

"I believe the Board of Commissioners should hold Commissioner Bonnema responsible for the lost cost, lost time, and lost reputation of the county and our County Administrator John Gibbs for filing an inappropriate action against Mr. Gibbs," Commissioner Gretchen Cosby said in June.

How we got here:

In a letter sent to the board on February 15, attorney Noah Hurwitz claims the county has been trying to get rid of Gibbs for months.

Hurwitz wrote that other county officials have "harassed, defamed and belittled" his client.

The letter says it all started when Gibbs raised concerns about the Kallman Legal Group, Ottawa County's corporate counsel.

The newly installed board hired both on the same day — January 3, 2023.

Just two months later, on March 10, Gibbs penned a letter to county officials laying three issues with corporation counsel.

The first issue mentioned was, "the insufficient availability of legal counsel with the effect that the county was often left without legal advice."

Second was, "the complete lack of any system with which to track legal deliverables with the effect that requests for legal service were left outstanding for long periods of time."

And the third was, "the competency of the Corporation Counsel to give appropriate legal advice."

These allegations come after Gibbs's attorney sent a letter to the county laying out his issues with corporation counsel. He also alleges that county employees have harassed, defamed and belittled his client.

Moss said there is a meeting set for sometime next week.

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