KALKASKA — Kalkaska County commissioners scheduled a special meeting Friday night to consider whether they believe Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should be impeached.
Board members scheduled that special meeting the same day Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield slapped down calls by some Republican lawmakers for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s impeachment for her actions mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
Chatfield, a Levering Republican, on Wednesday called the effort by Milford Township Republican Rep. Matt Maddock a distraction from what needs to be done in the state.
Maddock began the talk of impeaching Whitmer after state health director Robert Gordon implemented the three-week shut down of parts of Michigan’s economy in an effort to stem the accelerating spread of COVID-19. Maddock said Whitmer “crossed the line” on COVID-19 restrictions without legislative input. He said five Republican colleagues support his position, though he did not name them.
Kalkaska County commissioners first starting to talk about symbolic resolutions supporting impeachment last month, hosting a short, 15-minute session filled with public comments from residents opposed to the proposed resolution. The Oct. 26 meeting abruptly ended without action.
Now the Kalkaska County commissioners will again meet Friday to “review and discuss the state of Michigan regulations on COVID-19 financial impact on business, health and education of Kalkaska County citizens.” They will then review, discuss and consider a resolution that calls for Whitmer’s impeachment, according to their agenda.
Commissioner Dave Comai said he didn’t get a chance to share his opinions about Whitmer during last month’s short meeting and wants to do so. He said the matter should be revisited right away.
Commissioner Craig Crambell said he’s less interested in a vote on the resolution that calls for Whitmer’s impeachment than he is in having a productive discussion about the impacts COVID-19 has had on local businesses and what can be done to support them.
“I think that we have better things to do with our time,” Crambell said.
However, Crambell said he believed it would look better to the public if a special meeting agenda had more than just the impeachment resolution listed. He therefore encouraged the greater economic discussion be added to the meeting’s public notice.
If they don’t to that and the resolution became the sole reason for a special meeting, Crambell said other commissioners should be prepared for public scrutiny.
“Your phone is going to be blown up. Your email is going to be blown up,” Crambell said.
The proposed resolution up for consideration in Kalkaska County contends Whitmer deserves to be impeached because her pandemic response has been unconstitutional and rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.
Comai said more than 150 people people have spoken to him about their frustrations with Whitmer’s actions.
“Not a one of them has given me any kind of an explanation to how she did not violate our constitution,” he said, citing a decision by the Michigan Supreme Court that ruled the governor did not have the authority to extend emergency declarations without legislative approval.
Comai complained recent orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services continues to flout the law.
“Here she is back at it again,” Comai said.
Whitmer’s press secretary Tiffany Brown said the governor is focused on saving lives right now.
“Gov. Whitmer doesn’t have time for partisan politics or people who don’t wear masks, don’t believe in science and don’t have a plan to fight this virus,” Brown said.
In fact, none of the Kalkaska County commissioners who met in person Wednesday wore a face covering — contrary to current public health advice — though two commissioners participated via online video conferencing.
Brown said the governor is working for the benefit of all 10 million Michiganders.
“This is about Michigan vs. COVID-19. Gov. Whitmer doesn’t care if you’re a Trump Republican or a Biden Democrat. We are all in this together,” Brown said.
Kalkaska County resident Seth Phillips spoke during the meeting to tell commissioners he believed it inappropriate for county-level officials to consider this type of political issue over which they have no sway. He also criticized the maneuver to schedule the conversation as a means to revisit the political question.
Board Chairman Kohn Fisher insisted “it’s not political,” and encouraged fellow commissioners to ensure those opposed to Whitmer’s actions are aware of the local meeting.
In Lansing, Chatfield on Wednesday said an effort to impeach Whitmer would lack merit and would be every bit as “shameful” as the impeachment efforts against President Donald Trump.
“We’re not the party that impeaches someone because we’re upset with policies that they’ve enacted,” he said.
Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, criticized Whitmer for the partial shutdown of restaurants, bars, high schools and colleges, as well as limitations on gatherings. The people of Michigan deserve a seat at the decision table, Chatfield said in a written statement.
Chatfield said House Republicans stand ready to act in a bipartisan way when Whitmer decides it is worth her time.
Kalkaska County commissioners will each earn a $25 per diem for attending Friday’s special meeting, unless the session lasts longer than three hours and then each who attends will receive a $50 payment.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.