City, county nearing temporary agreement on governing body for joint health department
City and county officials are close to an agreement that will temporarily designate an entity as the “governing body” of the Cascade County City-County Health Department, as required by a law passed in the 2021 legislative session.
The city and county have been discussing the issue of what constitutes the governing body for months and the county has argued that it should be the county as they employ the staff and fund the majority of the operating budget.
Under the law and the joint agreement, the basic operation of the CCHD remains unchanged and the governing body would formally employ the health officer, formally adopt wastewater regulations as proposed by the health board; and would conduct a public hearing, seek public comment and be able to amend, rescind or otherwise change any directive, mandate or order issued by the health board in response to an emergency/disaster declaration from the governor.
Over the summer, city officials proposed a temporary agreement naming the county commission, plus one city commissioner that would be non-voting, and the governing body.
The county commission adopted a version of the agreement in August without the city commission member.
City officials believe the new state law allows for such a combined body, while the county has argued the law does not.
City officials are intending to seek a legal opinion by filing in district court and asking a judge to make that determination.
The city attorney said he intends to file by the end of the week.
Jeff Hindoien, city attorney, said the city and county are close to a temporary agreement that is essentially the same as their August proposal of a governing body with the county commissioners with a city commissioner serving in a non-voting capacity.
The city has not yet voted on the agreement so it is not in force, leaving the 1975 management agreement in place.
City and county officials have been working on the temporary agreement regarding a governing body to comply with the new state law while having a broader discussion about the management of CCHD and developing a new management agreement since the 1975 agreement is outdated and provisions within have not been followed for some times, officials said over the summer.
Some city commissioners suggested asking the Attorney Generals office for an opinion, but city attorneys advised seeking a district court decision was more expedient.
So far, neither the city or the county has requested an opinion or any other guidance from the AGs office on their legal dispute, Hindoien said.
“the city still believes that just getting an answer from our local district court on what we understand to be the legal dispute here will provide the most clarity and finality,” Hindoien told The Electric.