KREX TV explores how the County seized control over all of Mesa County Public Health Department’s contracts when it only contributes 4.2% of the agency’s budget

KREX reporter Michael Loggerwell’s story about Mesa County’s new Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the Health Department- Part 1

KREX-TV News recently did a two-part series about the Mesa County Commissioners’ new, post-Jeff Kuhr Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that more tightly regulates the County’s relationship with the Public Health Department (MCPHD), and how it differs from the old 2012 agreement in important ways that could negatively affect public health and safety in the county.

The new, more restrictive agreement created a far more bureaucratic system that gives county commissioners carte blanche to veto anything members of the Mesa County Board of Public Health might want to discuss at their meetings. It also gives the commissioners final say over all MCPHD’s contracts and grants — basically all of the agency’s funding — even though the County contributes a mere 4.2% of MCPHD’s $11.3 million budget.

In Part 1 of the series, KREX reporter Michael Loggerwell interviews Commissioner Cody Davis, who says the new IGA is “not much different” from the previous agreement put in place back in 2012.

Mesa County contributes just 4.2% of the MCPHD’s budget, yet pushed through a new agreement that gives the county control over all of MCPHD’s contracts and grants

The new IGA is very different from the old one

But then Loggerwell also interviews several public health experts who disagree with Davis, saying the new IGA gives the commissioners far more control over the health department than was intended under the Public Health Act of 2008.

In Part 2 of the series (below), these experts weigh in on why the new IGA goes too far and how it can negatively impact the Health Department’s ability to react quickly in response to public health threats:

This kind of heavy-handed control over health departments…

“…can not just potentially slow down necessary, rapid action that’s needed during … a public heath threat to the community, but it also undermines the actual expertise of people that have been trained to do public health…”

said Lori Freeman, Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

It’s not just hypothetical, either, Freeman pointed out. In Ottowa County, Michigan, the commissioners de-funded their health department and fired it’s director. “It’s a retaliation measure,” Freeman said, for steps the health department took during the Covid pandemic to keep people safe.

Mark Johnson, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Jefferson County Department of Public Health says what the Mesa County Commissioners have done to our health department is “unfortunate.”

It remains to be seen if the Mesa County Commissioners will now use their new, excessive power over MCPHD to retaliate against the agency, hinder its response to future pandemics and epidemics, or attempt to exert their own personal, political or religious beliefs on the agency, but citizens now must be extra vigilant for such incursions, especially since the new president of the Board of Public Health, Stephen D. Daniels, is an anti-vax, anti-immigrant, anti-gay extremist, and Commissioner Janet Rowland (who had herself placed on the Board of Health to gain more control over the agency), promoted conspiracy theories and spread disinformation about Covid during the pandemic when she ran for commissioner in 2020.


  9 comments for “KREX TV explores how the County seized control over all of Mesa County Public Health Department’s contracts when it only contributes 4.2% of the agency’s budget

  1. This is just one form of the commissioners claiming full transparency. Myself and 6 Agricultural neighbors to Talbots Farms were just denied our Constitutional and Civil rights in meetings with the planning department and later the County Commissioners Meeting. So much for transparency and fair treatment.

  2. When I saw this story on the news I was distraught at the new agreement, and thrilled that Michael Loggerwell had done such a great job reporting these changes that will affect everyone who lives in Mesa County.

    On a more positive note, I am a long-term caregiver in the community. I was trying to get some COVID test kits for myself and my client this week, and was told that I could get two kits. There are many caregivers on my current job, and there was a COVID exposure last weekend, so we want to make sure and test the staff before they start their shift, to make sure we protect the client and their family. I was told I could only pick up two kits, and I ask what shut ins are supposed to do since they can’t go to the health department and pick up their own kits. I asked for a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the person at the front kiosk looked at me like I was crazy, but went and inquired with someone and was told I would just have to come back and get more kits or order them online, and it is taking about 10 days to get them in the mail. I decided to call Kevin Fitzgerald, MD the Medical Director of the health department to inquire how to help those of us who take care of homebound clients. Even though he was out of the office on vacation, he had Rachel Burmeister call me back within an hour or so, and they had come up with a solution to the issue for people who can’t walk into the health department and pick up their own test kits. I truly believe that many of the staff who have been at the department before the commissioners decided to take over the department, are really trying to do the right thing, no matter the challenges put in their way by Janet and crew. Thanks to Dr. Fitzgerald and Rachel Burmeister for quickly coming up with a solution for the many shut ins and their caregivers in our community who are just trying to keep everyone safe.

  3. Jay Seaton of the Sentinel is always touting the importance of local newspapers in investigating these sorts of things. Where were they on this story (or any number of other issues of this sort)? It is actually absolutely amazing that any form of local news media covered this.

    • KREX-TV has done an amazing job of covering truly important issues, like the frauds and forgeries at Red Rock Auto dealerships, the lead contamination at the Ascent Academy of Grand Junction’s building and the takeover of the health department by County Commissioner Janet Rowland. We’re lucky to have KREX-TV.

  4. What is that saying…We reap what we sow? The commissioner’s need to control every segment of public health will not, in the end, serve anybody, least of all the county commissioners. Much like squeezing a ball of wet mud, hard to keep it from running between the fingers.

  5. The GOP never met a public organization that they did not want to disable or defund. They seem to have met the disabled criteria so now the playbook is defund. Imagine they have 4.2% contribution and they want to control 100% of what happens with the entire budget. In what world is that normal? That economic model is mind blowing and power crazed. Their transparent defenses a joke to any rational mind.

  6. So glad KREX is exploring and covering Janet Rolland’s shenanigans. Mesa County residents are getting sick and tired of her and her cronies changing the rules to their liking and proclaiming transparency, meanwhile, we end up losing. Cody Davis can give his drivel about how nothing has changed, but he’s a snake him the grass. We all know the Health Department went from running really well to now being a joke.

  7. I won’t trust the Health Department anymore—no vaccinations there, for example. Will restaurant and other health inspection results be changed to favor Rowland’s friends? Will grants dry up? Will citizens who Rowland doesn’t like (maybe that is most people) be denied health care? Mesa Co. does not have good health record (lots of diabetes, for ex.) and it will probably get worse. The intergovernmental agreement may violate state law and sooner or later another lawsuit will take more taxpayer money from the County while the roads deteriorate and other county services suffer.

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