Rules? What rules?
I’ve been following the Great Falls City Commission for years and pointing out instances of, in my opinion, questionable conduct of business. I and others here in Great Falls would say the commission at times appears to make their own rules while ignoring city code when it suits them. The latest instance of this occurred at the December 21 city commission meeting. The city commission failed to follow its own codified procedure for city board appointees. I feel it warrants further scrutiny.
Appointment or reappointment of a city representative for the City-County Board of Health was on the agenda. The Board of Health, unlike most other local boards, is not merely advisory— it wields, or attempts to wield, regulatory power. Therefore, it is a very important position in our community.
The city commission reappointed Amanda Ball even though she didn’t submit an application for reappointment. The city also failed to advertise the position to the public to solicit for other applicants. To me, this is a clear example of the city doing what they please instead of what is required.
The procedure for board appointments is codified in Resolution 10235, Establishing a Policy Concerning Appointments to Boards and Commissions, which was passed by the city commission on June 5, 2018:
“In the case of a member eligible for and interested in reappointment, if the member is in good standing and the applicable board or commission recommends that the member be reappointed, his or her application shall be brought before the City Commission for consideration for reappointment without advertising for other citizen interest”
The Board of Health chose not to make any recommendation as is documented in the meeting agenda packet.
So then, in order to follow their own rules, the City of Great Falls should have advertised for applicants—but they didn’t.
They also failed to require Ball to bring forth an application for reappointment.
Most of the public, along with Commissioner Tryon who began his term in 2020 and newly appointed Commissioner Heinbauch, would have no way of knowing what Ball’s qualifications are, unless they accessed her original application from April 2019. Why not provide the commissioners and the public her application?
There were two other folks that sent in applications, even though the city didn’t open it up for applications as required. One applicant, Katrina Lewis, is a doctor and the other applicant, Jonathan Martin, a retired pharmaceutical representative. Their applications are attached to the meeting agenda packet found here:
Commissioner Robinson, who also serves on the Board of Health and is in fact, chair of that board, was the main proponent for Ball. The December 21 city commission meeting is posted at link below. The discussion about reappointment of Ball begins @ 00:13:00.
At @ 00:16:00, Commissioner Tryon weighs in that the two other applicants deserve to be considered and brings up Resolution 10235. At @ 00:20:10 he asks the question of whether it is standard that the Board of Health doesn’t weigh in on appointment or reappointment of candidates to the board, to which Commissioner Robinson, at @ 00:20:24 states, “The answer is yes.”
But that is not true. The Board of Health has, in the past, weighed in on candidates.
For example, consideration for reappointment of Peter Gray, with the statement, “During the November 7, 2018 Board of Health meeting, the Board recommended reappointing Mr. Gray,” is found here:
And there are other examples as well, including Sue Ann Warren in 2008 and 2015. So Commissioner Robinson’s claim that the Board of Health’s policy is to refrain from recommending reappointment is blatantly false.
Also disappointing, with the exception of Commissioner Tryon, is that the commission appeared to accept Ball’s brief statement at the November 16 city commission meeting as equivalent to a written application.
I, along with many other city residents, wouldn’t consider an introduction by a city commissioner and a brief statement by a potential board candidate as an application. Indeed Commissioner Tryon made that very point.
Commissioner Robinson introduced Ball at the Nov 16 city commission Zoom meeting. She spoke briefly about wanting to remain on the board. By the way, this is listed in the meeting agenda as a Community Health Update, but I don’t consider it as such. It is Commissioner Robinson assisting Ball’s quest to be reappointed to the Board of Health. Here’s the link:
At @ 00:12:07: Robinson stated:
“I hope that ah, I think the board of health, under, under my, ah, ah recommendation, will recommend her to be, re, re, ah, re, ah, removed, ah, re—there she is she’s on their right now—reappointed, and so Amanda if you could just unmute yourself and show your face if you can hear us. And there she is, good. I don’t know whether you heard anything I said, but it was all good things, so. Anyway, I’m hoping that Amanda, ah, will, that the city commission, ah, the first meeting in January will reappoint her for another two year term.”
At @ 00:12:50, Ball begins her statement. She stated she works professionally in child welfare for the State of Montana. Then goes on to offer the following:
“I want to be clear that I am not speaking as a representative of the State of Montana,” she stated. “I am only representing myself and what I’ve found to be true for the majority of the children I’ve interacted with.”
Ball follows this some time later with what might be the most revealing statement of all:
“It is rare to hear a child complaining about a mask or social distancing themselves.”
It seems to me then that her reappointment would maintain the status quo of the current Board of Health, as far as mask mandate decisions.
Interestingly, public comment was received about unsolicited applicant Dr. Katrina Lewis who appears to me to be highly qualified for appointment to the Board of Health. The comment, from a Kathy Davis, states:
“Please reappoint Amanda Ball for the BOH. It is crucial to have members of that board science based thinkers. Dr. Lewis has been vocal against mask wearing , and espouses conspiracy theories.”
That comment, which is part of the public record, is found here:
These actions by the city bring up so many questions for me. Isn’t it a bit prejudiced to allow a city commissioner to personally introduce a potential board appointee and sing her praises? How can a commissioner who does that still be fair and balanced in order to vote on the matter? Doesn’t a personal recommendation by a commissioner give that person an unfair advantage over anyone else interested in the board position?
Further, Did Lewis’s unsolicited application contribute to the urgency in the city commission reappointment of Ball while Commissioner Robinson was still seated, instead of in January as originally proposed by Robinson at the November 16 commission meeting?
Are the city’s actions in this an indication that they will refuse to consider highly qualified applicants for the Board of Health, merely because those applicants are outspoken against mask mandates?
Sadly, as always, there was very little public comment at the December 21 commission meeting. Julie Bass makes her comment on reappointment beginning @ 00:27:04 and is summarily chastised by Mayor Kelly about using a good-old-boy reference. So much for free speech. My comment begins @ 00:44:41.