City considering temporary agreement for joint health department
During their Nov. 16 meeting, City Commissioners will consider a temporary agreement with Cascade County for the governing body of the City-County Health Department.
The Legislature passed a law this year requiring that there be a designated governing body for local joint health departments and the city and the county have been discussing their plan for months.
The agreement on the Nov. 16 agenda is virtually the same as the one the city proposed over the summer that named the county commission with one non-voting city commissioner member as the governing board.
The county adopted a version of the temporary agreement in August that did not include a city commissioner.
CCHD has been a joint city-county operation under a 1975 agreement that has not been updated since, nor do the entities follow all the provisions included in that agreement.
Under the 2021 law, HB 121, provisions for local health boards were revised and include a new entity dubbed the ‘governing body’ with a key change that allows that body to review and potentially amend or rescind any public health orders issued by a local health board in response to a formal emergency or disaster declaration by the governor.
The law specifically stated, “it is a purpose of this chapter to address ongoing issues or conditions created during a declared state of emergency as a result of orders, directives or mandates issued by the governor as allowed under Title 10, chapter 3, for a state of emergency acting longer than seven days. It is not a purpose of this chapter to hinder, slow or remove non-emergency-related powers granted to a local board of health.”
In the case of joint city-county health boards, the new law states that the governing body will be “the entity identified as the governing body as established in the bylaws, interlocal agreement, or memorandum of understanding creating a city-county local board of health.”
City officials believe the new state law allows for 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 told The Electric earlier that he intends to file by the end of the week. As of Nov. 15 ,no suit had yet been filed.
The city has not yet voted on the agreement adopted by the county in August 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.
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 earlier this month.
“Legal staff for both the city and county are continuing in their efforts to secure a resolution of that dispute, but in the meantime the county has advised the city that it is willing to agree to the designation of an interim entity to serve as the HB 121 ‘governing body’ while the parties resolve whatever legal impediments remain to an agreement for a permanent designation,” according to the staff report.
The agreement being considered during the Nov. 16 meeting is temporary and set to expire June 30.