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'This isn't right': State rep. supports lawsuit against Ottawa County mask mandate

"The idea that the county commissioners were receiving death threats is extremely counter-productive," said Rep. Meerman.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — There have been continuing concerns in Ottawa County regarding the mask mandate for kids in Kindergarten through 6th grade.

Local parents are now fighting to legally overturn the health department's order and two state leaders are supporting that fight, Senator Roger Victory and Representative Luke Meerman.

13 ON YOUR SIDE spoke to Rep. Meerman one-on-one Wednesday morning.

"I am not against masks, and I am not against vaccines," said Meerman, "but I am against mandates."

Meerman, a Republican, represents Michigan's 88th district, which includes Ottawa County.

"This isn't right that a health director, on their own, can decide something this significant," said Meerman, "and I don't think the law allows for that, and I'm glad that this lawsuit is going out of its way to prove just that."

An official lawsuit against Ottawa County has not been filed yet, but in the meantime, both Meerman and Sen. Victory have publicly given their support to the process. 

13 ON YOUR SIDE asked Meerman what he would say to his constituents that do support the health orders, because they may have immuno-compromised children or family members.

"We need to deal with those kind of things as best we can, but a broad, blanket statement saying that all must wear masks is an overstep," he responded.

County commissioners have quickly became the target of frustrated parents over the mandates, although they may not have the authority to overturn any decision made by health departments.

Meerman responded to this, saying, "when the county commissioners say they don't have the authority, I honestly think they're listening to the wrong corporate counsel. I think they're listening to the wrong legal opinion."

Doug Van Essen is the corporation counsel for Ottawa County.

In response to the ongoing threats of litigation against the county and to the public support by these two leaders, Van Essen said the following:

"Sad that Rep. Meerman and Roger Victory would support litigation against Ottawa County. In my 40 years of being a county lawyer I have never seen such a disrespectful situation.  

Interesting that last year their position was that Director Gordon/Hertel should not be making masking decisions but it should be left up to the Local Health Officers. Now, when the State defers to the Local Health Officers they don't like that result either.  

Neither Representative Meerman nor Senator Victory are members of the Michigan Bar and so they are totally incompetent to provide legal analysis, which may explain why neither has said anything to me when they have had the chance. The litigation that they support asserts that all decisions made by nonelected county officials should be subject to review by the county board of commissioners. By the legal position that they support, this would mean that the county board of commissioners could change the medical examiner's conclusion after an autopsy that a death was a homicide or was not a homicide. This is the litigation position that Rep. Meerman and Senator Victory support.  

The appointed local health officers are required to have a masters degree in public health and the County's appointed Medical Director has to be a physician. The lawsuit that Rep. Meerman and Senator Victory support argues that nonmedically trained county commissioners can reverse the medical decisions made by the Health Officer and Medical Director.  

They criticized Governor Whitmer for politicizing the mask mandate because she was a politician making medical decisions. Now they want part time partisan elected officials at the local level making medical decisions. To say they are all over the map and have no appreciation for the rule of law and standards of good government is the understatement of the year."

When asked if thought the COVID-19 pandemic has become more about politics and less about science, Meerman said, "I think everyone is kind of using their own science on both sides, I think you only read what you want to know and what you think already."

"That's not good," he added, "it's not good for our nation, and it's not good for communities."

Meerman is also calling for the threats against county and local officials to end. 

"The idea that the county commissioners were receiving death threats is extremely counter-productive," he said, "and that is not going to help make your case when you resort to that."

"I think this lawsuit will be successful," said Meerman, "but if for some reason it's not, then it's on me as a legislature to do whatever I can in Lansing to bring that peoples' voice back to the table."


RELATED VIDEO: 'An uphill battle': Parent group to sue Ottawa County over recent mask mandate

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