An email exchange acquired by the Gazette underscores Niemann’s bullying, harassment, intimidation, and implicit threats made against those with alternative views
Drenda Niemann has earned a reputation throughout Montana as the most aggressively unreasonable health officer in the state, with forced mitigation efforts that go above and beyond reason or medical necessity. The epitome of a power-drunk bureaucrat, Niemann has repeatedly used the COVID-19 crisis to promote her own far-left vision of big government and its power to forcefully coerce citizens through intimidation, fear, and threats.
Niemann – an unelected bureaucrat – demanded that elected Republicans from all over the state refrain from coming to the State Capitol for the legislative session. Staying utterly silent about Black Lives Matter protests violating her health directives, she promised to charge Republicans for gathering in an 80-acre open field for a liberty rally. Yet when Governor Bullock was repeatedly photographed at public events without distancing or wearing a mask, Niemann remained silent. She has repeatedly harassed state lawmakers in the press, claiming that unnamed businesses had made non-specific complaints against unnamed legislators for not respecting their mask rules.
Last week, the Montana Daily Gazette reported on the ejection of Niemann’s number-two, Eric Merchant, who had thrown his weight around a local grocery store with profanity and fits of anger. Calling tax-payers “dickhead” and swearing profusely at the top of his lungs, Merchant demanded a female hourly grocery store employee physically throw out a customer who wasn’t wearing a mask. The employee then called the police, who had to physically remove Merchant from the location. Unsurprisingly, the local legacy press outlets chose not to cover the incident despite there being public police reports available.
As a part of that coverage, we asked the public for their own accounts of the harassment, bullying, and intimidation on the part of Niemann’s Lewis & Clark Health Board against the taxpayers who fund their salaries. We are now going through a pile of emails from residents who all attest to receiving threats from Niemann and her jackbooted thugs against their businesses and livelihoods. But, for now, we will start with just one and use it as a test-case explanation for how unelected bureaucrats have become the most tyrannically powerful cabal in Lewis & Clark County.
TRUST THE PROFESSIONALS
Niemann has repeatedly lectured the public that they had better trust the medical professionals, who the woman appears to believe is a homogenous entity with a bad case of groupthink. In reality, “the medical professionals” is a wide array of board-certified physicians who differ greatly on mask efficacy and the danger of COVID-19. Many physicians in Montana, including Dr. Annie Bukacek of Kalispell and a large swath of more medical professionals, believe that masking and vaccines are largely unnecessary for a virus that has only killed 55 healthy Montanans in 2020.
What Niemann means when she says “trust the professionals” is do what Dr. Fauci says. That epidemiologist, who has headed up the United States’ virus mitigation efforts, gave Americans the approval to have casual sexual encounters with strangers via Tinder but demanded we not sing at church because it’s too dangerous. Fauci, who vehemently denied the efficacy of masks and told Americans not to wear them until the nation was in Phase 2 of the lockdown, seems hardly the expert he is given the credit of being, often being seen without a mask himself in public.
Nonetheless, it’s absolutely necessary for Niemann to argue that we should “trust the professionals.” Mostly, that’s because she’s not one. It may seem counterintuitive – because it is – that the woman who has endlessly harassed local businesses and their taxpaying customers doesn’t have a degree in health, but she doesn’t. Niemann has a B.A. in counseling, psychology, and social work along with a Master’s Degree in public administration.
Highlighting a fundamental problem in Montana law that should be fixed post-haste, public health officers are not required to be experts in public health. Nonetheless, in a health crisis they have been endowed with supreme authority – even over the county sheriff – as it pertains to the pandemic response. Because exceptions can be made by county commissioners to hire under-educated people like Drenda Niemann, health policy is being directed by those without health degrees or medical training.
AN UNDENIABLE PATTERN OF HARASSMENT AND INTIMIDATION
Helena-area business owners largely attest to Niemann’s heavy-handed intimidation, but mostly from anonymity in social media. Little doubt remains that the under-educated health officer will do everything possible to harass and bully the business owners who disagree with her policies or desire to blow the whistle on her treatment of them. They are, for lack of a better word, being intimidated into silence.
Should one doubt this, they only need to view the police reports regarding Eric Merchant’s verbal assaults and threats of physical violence against store employees.
But today, the Montana Daily Gazette has acquired an email exchange between Niemann and a local health professional that underscores her pattern of mistreatment that stifles robust discussion in the medical community and silences the educated professionals who disagree with her uninformed decisions.
A health professional who has specialized medical qualifications reached out to Niemann to ask her to consider lifting mandates considering there were no COVID-19 cases at the hospital.
The email (above) reads, “Hello, Since we have no covid patients currenlty being treated in the hospital, consider lifting the unnecessary restrictions being levied upon the citizens that live and work here.”
Niemann’s snotty response discounted the concerns of the actual health professional and repeated the medically unfounded notions that common mitigation efforts do anything to stop the spread of COVID-19, which has still yet to be proven demonstrably by empirical evidence using the Scientific Method(see below).
Niemann doesn’t appear capable of acknowledging that Lewis & Clark County – despite her draconian policies that are above-and-beyond anywhere else in the state – has virtually the exact same COVID-19 conditions as counties with no mitigation efforts whatsoever. Nonetheless, Niemann attributes zero cases in the hospital to her policies, despite complaining vociferously in the newspapers that non-compliance by legislators would create a “super spreader event” that would make cases in Helena skyrocket.
Niemann seems adverse to facts.
Then, the health professional responded by stating, “I believe temporary emergency powers will be revoked by the legislature, so I am hopeful that the masking requirements will be lifted also. Thank you for the speedy reply.”
She responded (below) with an implicit threat toward his employment.
Niemann threatened, “Does St. Peter’s know you are using work email to advocate against the very tools that protect the hospital from getting overwhelmed?”
In other words, do not question me…do not give me your informed opinions…I am presuming something irrational, and you had better not get in the way of my administration degree.
However, the health professional’s response was classic (see below).
He responded, “Drenda, Are you using your position and government email to issue a veiled threat against me? My right to freedom of speech and right to due process doesn’t stop when I put my scrubs on. As a civil servant, you work for the people who live and work in Lewis and Clark County. I emailed you a simple question for an answer, and you answered me in a hostile, bullying fashion. I did not get that type of response from the governor’s office, which by the way, didn’t care where the question came from. It was the governor’s office that told me that the legislature will be voting to revoke the counties’ emergency powers and lifting the masking requirements” (emphasis ours).
LEWIS AND CLARK COUNTY DESERVES CIVIL SERVANTS THAT DON’T THREATEN THE PUBLIC
Little blame can be cast toward health officers who didn’t know what our communities were facing in March and April of 2020. But by the summer of last year, it became clear that the largely unnecessary panic – largely caused by self-aggrandizing health officers – would do significantly more damage than the Wuhan Flu itself. Since that time, as the death rate has continued to spiral to flu-level proportions, bureaucrats who have drunk from the well of unmitigated power have continued to press the taxpaying public to their limits.
In instance after instance, Montana has witnessed the over-the-top and tyrannical huffing-and-puffing from Drenda Niemann that surpasses that of much larger and even more progressive urban areas. An under-educated bureaucrat who is woefully underqualified for public service in the arena of health, Niemann has subsidized her lack of medical training with unbridled authority. No doubt feeling inadequate for the task of public health, understandably, Niemann has supplemented her inadequacy with intimidation against the public that questions her approach.
Whether or not Niemann is right about masking, distancing, and other largely unnecessary public policies, both liberals and conservatives should agree that the voting public should be treated respectfully by their civil servants. But Niemann is not a civil servant; she is a dictator who has turned the public into her servants, demanding that they enforce her policies like self-policing law enforcement or face her wrath.
Lewis & Clark County should do what is right, and ask Ms. Niemann to find a career for which she is more suited and qualified, far away from the public she has ruthlessly abused for the last year.
[Editor’s Note: This email exchange was acquired through lawful means by the Montana Daily Gazette and the article was created without the input or knowledge of the recipients or senders. Should Niemann desire to act punitively toward the individual, we would remind her that whistleblowers are protected under the WDEA Act]