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County commissioners and collaborative efforts: Board discusses applicant for Human Services role

Livingston County

Human Services Collaborative Body

The objectives and methods of the Livingston County Board of Commissioners are being called into question following the selection process for the Livingston County Human Services Collaborative Body.

The Livingston County Human Services Collaborative Body (HSCB) is comprised of 26 members. The objective of this initiative is to promote shared stewardship of community resources and create efficient and effective care systems for community members. Overall, the HSCB is dedicated to providing a caring community support system rooted in collaboration and broad community representation.

At the October 17th meeting, the Board of Commissioners voted on each of the nine applicants for three-year terms on the Livingston County Human Services Collaborative Body. Seven of the nine were approved unanimously, whereas Nicole Matthews-Creech and Stacy Farrell were both denied a position. The Board did not provide any insight into their decisions.

As a result, Stacy Farrell reached out to contact several of the county commissioners to clarify the reasoning behind the decision. Farrell explained to GIGO News that she had applied for the position and received a letter welcoming her to the Collaborative Body. Four days later, she received a phone call retracting the letter. 

During the call to the public, Farrell asked that her application be reconsidered. 

In addition to a bachelor’s in Business Administration and professional experience in sales and program management, Farrell is well-versed in health perspectives. 

In addressing the Board, Farrell elaborated on how she got her start as a health advocate: as a mother, finding out that her then 15-month-old son’s lifesaving medication could not be duplicated by a typical pharmacy. 

Since then, Farrell has worked with local health departments, regional hospital systems, and the Children’s Special Healthcare Program at the state level, where she was appointed to the Michigan Family Leadership Network.

“The Network was created out of the common need to obtain diverse perspectives from families and receive input on special projects,” Farrell told the Board of Commissioners. “These family perspectives are highly valued, and contribute to a better understanding of experiences with health care and other systems in Michigan.”

Farrell is also a graduate of the Leadership Livingston program. Initiated by Cleary University, the curriculum is designed to expand upon the potential of community members who have demonstrated a talent for and a commitment to leadership. Farrell was given a letter of recommendation from the program’s director, Deborah Drick. 

In the ensuing discussion, Commissioner Brenda Plank offered an amendment to add Farrell back into the pool of considered applicants. 

Commissioner Wes Nakagiri was adamant that Plank’s attempt at an amendment was invalid, as it was previously defeated in the Personnel Committee. As Chair, he refused to grant the other commissioners an opportunity to second Plank’s motion until pressed by Martin Smith. Smith seconded and supported the amendment. A two-thirds majority vote overruled the parliamentarian ruling of the chair. Along with Plank and Smith, Commissioners Reader, Griffith, and Gross voted to bring the amendment to the table. Doug Helzerman and Jay Drick joined Nakagiri in dissenting. 

Nakagiri then called a five-minute recess, noting that he needed to retrieve his notes on the matter. 

The notes in question said very little– if anything at all– about Stacy Farrell’s qualifications. Farrell originally approached the Board of Commissioners in the Spring of 2022 with a resolution for mental health awareness designed to alleviate Pandemic-induced stress and anxiety felt by the community. Farrell says her attempt to have a legitimate community issue addressed– or at the very least acknowledged– led her to realize that she and the Board had drastically different ideas regarding the well-being of the community.  Since then, Farrell has become a regular at Livingston County Commissioners meetings. 

“So much of what’s going on in this community can be solved by asking ‘why,’” Farrell explained to GIGO News. This philosophy is prominent in Farrell’s interactions with the Board

Repeatedly asking the board for transparency, she explained, was very similar to a parent asking a child to do the dishes: initially, the situation is a diplomatic one, but after three or four requests, parental frustration peaks. To the dismissive child who’s been repeatedly asked to do the dishes, this frustration seemingly arises out of nowhere. Thus was the Board’s reaction when Farrell addressed them at the September 26th meeting. She believes the Board’s ability to serve the community was being impeded by identity politics and expounded that Nakagiri in particular had unnecessarily increased the divide in the community. As such, she asked for Nakagiri’s resignation, and, failing this, implored the Board of Commissioners “to maintain the highest ethical standards and immediately censure Chairman Nakagiri.” 

Farrell asserts that Nakagiri’s opposition to her appointment is a retaliatory measure. Farrell states that she has repeatedly made efforts to speak with Nakagiri to address the misinformation. These requests have been denied, while ad hominem attacks on her character have increased, including saying she “doesn’t have the mainstream values that are represented in Livingston County.”

Farrell herself noted that Nakagiri’s slander of her character has centered around painting her as “an absolute minority, as a Democrat, and undeserving of any representation.”

Wes Nakagiri’s notes on the topic serve more as a defamation and discrediting of Ms. Farrell’s character than legitimate factual reasoning. Nakagiri claims that he disagrees with Farrell on a variety of issues, but the only one he made explicit mention of was her stance on LGBTQ+ issues. 

In clarifying his stance on Farrell’s application, Nakagiri read an excerpt from a 2021 WHMI article regarding the plans for a Drag Queen Bingo event at Howell Melon Fest. Farrell was quoted as saying that the backlash and opposition to the event were “discriminatory and stereotypical and that is exactly what people expect out of Howell.”

Farrell admitted that she was confused by Nakagiri’s recitation of the article. The paragraph in question had no connection to the matters of the Livingston County Human Service Collaborative Body. It remains unclear as to why Nakagiri felt compelled to cite a year-old article about an event that was ultimately canceled– and one that Farrell had no role in planning. Nevertheless, Nakagiri attempted to spin this as though Farrell was disparaging the entirety of Livingston County, adding “I don’t want somebody representing Livingston County with that point of view.”

Nakagiri accused Farrell of “promoting transgenderism to four to eight-year-old children.” This, he claims, is out of the bounds of free speech, equating it to racism or Nazism. This claim appears to be recycled from his Substack page, in which he levels the same accusation at representatives of Hartland Consolidated Schools. Furthermore, the claim is a baseless one: Farrell has denied this, adding that her interactions with four to eight-year-old children are rather limited.

In addressing Nakagiri’s concerns, Jay Gross, who currently serves on the HSCB, noted that seldom has any individual used their place on the board to promote personal liberal idealogy or endorse an LGBTQ+ lifestyle. Nor have any of the 26 members been profoundly supportive of Critical Race Theory (CRT) or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). 

“In my experience,” he told the Board, “being a member of that group does not enable a given person to dictate any part of the agenda or any decisions that the board makes.”

As Brenda Plank pointed out, when it comes to the Livingston County Human Services Collaborative Body, collaboration is key. Collaboration allows for a diverse range of perspectives, which in turn maximizes the effectiveness of a committee. 

Carol Griffith spoke of her own time on the HSCB, calling it an opportunity for different organizations and nonprofits to work effectively and efficiently to serve the community. During her tenure, Griffith noted that she witnessed members of various organizations as compared to “trying to champion all of their individual wants or needs.”

Martin Smith referred to Farrell as “a person who’s dedicated to serving others, something so desperately needed in the world today.” 

Drawing on her judicial experience, Carol Sue Reader pointed out that different points of view are foundational aspects of democracy and fundamental to the Constitution. Her points of view, Reader argues, are irrelevant. What matters is the freedom to express them.

The Board of Commissioners voted 5-3 in favor of adding Stacy Farrell’s name to the list of candidates, with Griffith, Gross, Plank, Reader, and Smith supporting the amendment. 

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