KENT COUNTY, Mich. — Kent County commissioners issued a statement Wednesday about the Board of Commissioners’ role in local public health orders, saying they do not have authority to intervene in a health officer’s work.
The board’s in-house legal team researched the issue and provided an opinion, and the board also sought a second opinion from outside counsel, Warner Norcross & Judd.
Both opinions concluded that “neither the Kent County Board of Commissioners nor the county administrator/controller have the authority to intervene in the health officer’s performance of his statutory duties under Michigan’s Public Health Code.”
The code, which was established by the state Legislature in 1978 for the protection and promotion of public health, specifically states that health officers “may take actions and make determinations necessary or appropriate to carry out the local health department’s functions under this part or functions delegated under this part and to protect the public health and prevent disease.”
Dr. Adam London of the Kent County Health Department issued a local public health order requiring masks be worn in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade educational settings.
Some members of the community called on the Kent County Board of Commissioners during a meeting last week to rescind the public health order, remove Dr. London or defund the health department.
However, both in-house and outside legal opinions say the board is prohibited by state law from taking any of these actions.
They also concluded that public health order issued by local public health officers are not personal orders of those officers, but actually remain in effect even after the individual leaves office.
Read commissioners’ full statement and answers to frequently asked questions here: