PLATTE COUNTY COMMISSION VS PUBLIC HEALTH
The Platte County Commissioners are attempting to bully the Platte County Health Department into completely ignoring the COVID-19 pandemic. This threatens the health of Platte County residents.
On May 4, the Commissioners adopted an ordinance in a failed attempt to strip away the authority of the Health Department to issue “stay at home” orders. The ordinance changed county codes to require approval of the commission before anyone could be charged with violating an order issued by the Health Department. It also appeared at this same session that the Commissioners had filled the room with angry people to make it a “roast the Health Department” session.
The Commissioners’ effort to take over the responsibilities of the Health Department, which is governed by a separate, elected board of directors, failed because Prosecutor Eric Zahnd pointed out that violations of Health Department orders are prosecuted under state law, not county ordinance. Therefore, the revision of county ordinance had no effect.
Then, on May 26, the commissioners amended a contract with the Graves-Garrett law firm for it to "provide legal analysis and advice regarding constitutional and statutory powers of the Platte County Commission regarding Platte County business". They refused to be more specific about the work to be performed and erroneously cited “attorney-client” privilege as the reason for not divulging more information. That restriction is on the attorney, not the client. They also refused to provide an estimate of how much taxpayers will pay for this work.
Graves-Garrett recently billed the commissioners for 25.2 hours of work described as "Health Dept. Orders Entered on May 1, 2020". The amount of the invoice is $9,978 and is only for work performed in May. Perhaps the commissioners plan to ask the courts to intercede and order the Health Department to turn authority over to the commissioners. This effort could get very expensive for you, the taxpayer.
Also, Platte County has received $12,250,000 in federal funds provided through the CARES Act. The funds are to be used to cover additional expenses incurred because of the COVID-19 pandemic by the County and other jurisdictions located within the county. The Health Department has obviously incurred additional costs, but the Commissioners are not allocating any funds from the grant to cover these costs. Perhaps to bully them into “giving in” to the commissioners? If the grant funds are not used to help cover the COVID-19 costs, it means these types of costs will fall to us, the local taxpayers.
It appears the Commissioners believe the COVID-19 pandemic should be ignored. For example, they held in-person meetings during the shutdown and generally no masks were worn, or social distancing encouraged at commission meetings where 25 to 50 people were in attendance. They are obviously trying to bully the Health Department into treating the pandemic the same way.
The elected Board of Health and professionals in the Health Department should be making the decisions that impact public health. The interference and heavy-handed actions of the Platte County Commissioners threatens the health of all county residents.