The following article was written by Julie A Martin, RN, BSN, ACN-Martin is a registered nurse of over 30 years, and enjoys writing, fighting for liberty, and the privilege of living in Montana.
The past two years have been turmoil in many ways, but mainly for the Flathead County Health Department regarding the role of the health officer. Supposedly, a “self-appointed” committee of people from the Flathead County Board of Health has been diligently seeking a good candidate all along, but is this really true?..
The “self-appointed committee” currently in place consists of Commissioner Pam Holmquist, Ronalee Skees, Jessica Malberg, and Columbia Falls Mayor Don Barnhart. I would love to know who the brain trust was that decided that three non-medical people and a veterinary radiologist are somehow the best choices to make the extremely important choice for a six-figure position that is responsible for overseeing the health and wellbeing of an area the size of Flathead County? While Malberg may be the most qualified of the group, the vast majority of those represented in Flathead County are humans (not animals). Ronalee Skees isn’t even qualified to be a board member, to begin with (I’m still stumped about how she was ever appointed, not to mention re-appointed), so how on earth was she selected for this, other than being Pam’s “buddy?”
The health board, at a minimum, should vote on the selection of members of a committee of this magnitude, not to mention allowing for a transparent process in which the public is also involved and can give public comment. I would submit that this entire process has not been transparent and, in fact, has violated Montana State Constitution regarding open meetings, most particularly regarding MCA 2-3-201: “Declares the Legislature’s intent that “public boards, commissions, councils, and other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business.” It further declares that provisions of this part of the law “shall be liberally construed,” that is, in favor of openness.” In layman’s terms, they have violated this statute as well as the one below.
MCA 2-3-203: “Says all meetings of governmental bodies of the state, political subdivisions or organizations supported in whole or in part by public funds shall be open to the public, including committees and subcommittees. The presiding officer may close a meeting for discussion of a matter involving individual privacy.” There should be no expectation of privacy with these interviews, as all of the candidates should be notified upfront that this is a public process. This is the people’s business and is completely unacceptable. The interview process should be public knowledge.
Furthermore, this “self-appointed committee” did not even return information concerning the interview process pertaining to the “new health officer” to the existing health board! Holmquist stated the following in a video clip you can view below but doesn’t abide by her own words. “The personnel committee will make a recommendation, then those individuals will go to the health board…you guys look at whoever is in the pool. You make a recommendation to the commissioners, and then the commissioners have the final say” (Holmquist). Once again, Dr. Annie Bukacek aimed to hold the health board accountable for its horrific lack of transparency. The Flathead Beacon article recently stated that Dr.Heybor “would be available early this week to meet with Chambers.” But the question remains- why weren’t either Dr. Bukacek or Dr. Heybor consulted so as to be on the “self-appointed” committee in the first place?
Watch below this unbelievable clip (March 2022) where unaccountability abounds in the Flathead County Health Board where Joe Russell and Pam Holmquist open their mouths and insert feet.
Michael Chambers ‘was the one’ from the Macon County Health Department in Missouri. What happened to the other seven? Why the secrecy? If the candidates, which the county is paying big taxpayer money to the recruiters, are so highly regarded, then what is there to hide? Click here to read where the Daily Interlake received and printed incorrect information when they stated there was only one health officer candidate when there were, in fact, eight.
I will relate my own experience with applying for this position in 2020, after the exit of Hillary Hanson (former interim health officer).
The MCA code 50-2-116 clearly states that part of the qualifications for the position is “a physician; a person with a master’s degree in public health or a person with equivalent education and experience.” At the time of my application, I had been a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree in nursing for over 29 years. I had worked a number of years in the community health setting as a home health nurse, in a jail facility, and in both cases, in very high-level management. As a manager, I was responsible for multi-million dollar contracts and numerous employees (over 100 in one facility), including administratively over even the physicians at the jail facility where I worked.
There is no question I had “equivalent experience and education,” yet I was never contacted for an interview. When I inquired into the process, I was immediately railroaded with no explanation of who was in charge of making the decisions regarding who would be interviewed, and I was told I had no way to contact anyone to follow up on this. I even went to the health department in person to inquire and was again railroaded. Months later, I received a “thanks but no thanks” letter with no explanation of why I was not considered for the position. I have never been treated so unprofessionally in all of my years of experience. I also have no idea who was on this mysterious “committee” at the time, either.
The person who is currently being considered for the position, Michael Chambers, has an MBA, not a master’s in public health. He has a bachelor’s in health care management. As stated in a recent article about him in The Daily Interlake, “In his meeting with the commissioners, Chambers noted that the Macon County Health Department is considerably smaller than Flathead County’s. Currently, he oversees 14 employees, he said. There are about 67 full-time employees at the Flathead County Health Department.”
However, looking at his previous experience, he very likely managed far more employees in his previous roles. It is encouraging that his county never issued mandates, and he has stated publicly that he believes vaccines are a choice. Hopefully by his statement that “the role of a health officer is to make health available to everyone,” he means that the health department will really teach what true health is. The health department should be teaching the public about the immune system benefits of a good diet, exercise, fresh air, sunshine, and appropriate supplementation. The self-appointed “powers that be” haven’t decided on Chambers, and they most certainly haven’t allowed any of the citizens of Flathead County to have a real say or any insight into their decision.
Holmquist and Skees are at the helm once again and sneaking around the bush and not even getting the information due to the health board back to them.
Neither of these women is appropriate to be on this “self-appointed committee,” much less run a district or the county.
The people of Flathead County are once again being excluded, and once again, Pam Holmquist and Ronalee Skees are in the midst of it all.