Crowd Asks Commissioners Not To Reappoint Remington

Jodi Cox (L, standing at podium) asked the Kosciusko County Commissioners on Tuesday not to approve the reappointment of Dr. William Remington as the county public health officer. A crowd of several dozen people attended the Commissioners meeting to support her request, which the Commissioners took under advisement. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

TIMES UNION REPORTS – Dozens of county residents attended the Kosciusko County Commissioners meeting Tuesday to request Public Health Officer Dr. William Remington not be reappointed to the position.

They cited the mask mandate at Warsaw Community Schools, a “hot mic” incident at Warsaw City Hall and Remington’s 26-year tenure as health officer as some of the reasons he should not be reappointed.

The Kosciusko County Health Board unanimously voted to reappoint Remington for another four-year tenure at the Health Board’s October meeting. However, under new state rules, the Commissioners must certify and approve the appointment, according to county attorney Ed Ormsby.

The Commissioners stated Tuesday they would take all the comments and information presented to them under advisement.

Masks, Schools & Remington

Jodi Cox, who identified herself as a “Warsaw mom, first and foremost,” got on the Commissioners’ agenda to speak about Remington and led the comments that went over an hour. She handed her 12-1/2-minute speech and a petition of nearly 600 people who do not want Remington reappointed and for the Commissioners to “find a doctor that better represents our community’s values and respects the freedoms that Americans, for generations, have fought to protect.”

She said it was the Warsaw School Board meeting concerning mask mandates that got her interested in the School Board, Health Board and the Commissioners.

“The School Board works for parents and to protect the well-being of our children. Our children are not for sale for some compliance of governmental rule. It was very clear the Board already had made a decision and the parent meeting was merely a formality,” she said, in part.

Cox said she was disgusted at the “entitled empowerment every single one of the School Board members displayed in front of pleading parents to not let the school go against their personal beliefs on what is best for their child.”

She said the health commissioners, County Commissioners and School Board members are here because of her because she voted for them. “You work for me, for all of us. You are not in charge of me. Your job is to protect me, my values and my children, along with every other person in this community,” she said.

Cox began listening to the weekly/biweekly press conferences at Warsaw City Hall on COVID-19.

“This is where I learned that Dr. Remington stated he was proud of Biden’s vaccine mandates and was disappointed in Holcomb’s refusal to enforce the mandate for Indiana. He touted the efficacy and safety of the vaccine and urged everyone to please be vaccinated.”

Two weeks later, she said Remington said he was confronted in grocery stores and church and said he hopes everyone can be friends after all of this is over and that vaccine mandates would be an overreach.

“Wait, what? Science changes in just two weeks, or will our county be ruled by one man’s changing interpretation of science depending on what his friends think?” Cox said.

She acknowledged that science does change and changes often because of new facts learned. “To mandate an unproven vaccine is irresponsible. The present facts and the developing information should be made public so people can make informed decisions and weigh their own risk benefits in health decisions for themselves and their children with a trusted doctor,” Cox said.

She continued, “When Dr. Remington was informed that noncomplying schools were no worse off than WCHS, there was no shift of thought, but a declaration from Remington, ‘Why take the foot off the gas now?,’ keep pushing the agenda harder. That, my friends, is not science, that is ignoring science.”

She then referenced an Oct. 13 “hot mic” moment that occurred prior to the last COVID-19 news conference at Warsaw City Hall. The livestream on Facebook unexpectedly started minutes before the press conference when officials were privately discussing related topics and before the media were invited in.

“The hot mic session was where it gets interesting. This session (is) where Remington stated that he has emailed (Warsaw Community Schools Superintendent Dr. David) Hoffert information and that he has searched for and found some new scientific data that could back up whatever the school wanted to do as far as the mask mandate. He questioned the mayor and commissioners, ‘Why pull back mandates now that the school has already taken the hit with parents?’ To quote Remington exactly, he refers to us as ‘noncompliant parents who need to get out of the way’ so that our ‘children will get in line,’” she said, adding that this line of reasoning is the reason “why we should never release a freedom because it’s harder to get that freedom back once you have let it go.”

She talked about how School Board members wore masks and sat 8 feet apart at the Board meeting, but days later were seen at packed stadiums without their protective masks on. She said the Board members’ masks were just props and propaganda. She also talked about the masks children are forced to wear are thrown around, dropped and reworn.

Cox said she also learned that Warsaw School Board President Heather Reichenbach is the wife of Dr. Brian Reichenbach, who sits on the county health board. She pointed out that Hoffert is a voting board member of the Health Department as well.

She said it was time for Warsaw Schools to get rid of the mask mandate and that Remington is all for the vaccine mandates.

“If you think the mask fight was bad, wait until you force parents to inject their perfectly healthy children with an untrusted vaccine,” she said. “The thing that is wrong with government, both national and local, is the lack of trust. Back-door meetings and arrangements to press through personal agendas, much like the hot mic session recorded, is why we don’t trust. The thing that is different in the public response now is you are affecting my children and now parents are actually paying attention.”

She called for Remington’s resignation because of the way he has handled the COVID-19 response. She said there are at least two other local doctors who are willing and qualified to take over that disagree with Remington.

After Cox was finished, Commissioner Bob Conley said there was a lot of interest in the topic and the Commissioners would take what was presented under advisement.

Rights & Responsibilities

A little later in the meeting, after annual highway bids were opened, Katrina Lewis objected to Remington’s reappointment.

“Dr. Remington hopes to … mask my kids against my parental authority, against my Constitutional rights and against my religious exemptions,” Lewis said. She said her children’s faces are covered in rashes they developed after wearing the masks day after day, and they also developed sore throats.

She told the Commissioners about four studies from the National Institute of Health she found regarding face masks and how they’re bad for people to wear them constantly, especially children. She said Remington should not only not be the public health officer, but also should not hold a medical license.

Dr. Chris Magiera questioned the constitutionality of the COVID rules, Brad Skiles blamed the county Health Department and Remington for not being critical thinkers on the issues.

Linda Kitch said, “At the end of the day, this comes down to freedom. This is about freedom. You have the right, if you want to, to send your kid to school in a mask. But if you, as a parent, don’t think that’s what’s best for your child, that’s your right, too. This is about freedom, this is about liberty, this is about taking back our country. And it starts at the local level.”

Kitch wanted to know what Conley meant when he said the Commissioners would take it under advisement.

“What’s this process look like from here on out? How does this work? And what does taking it under advisement mean? We want action. We want something done,” she said.

Commissioner Brad Jackson, who has served as a commissioner for 25 years, responded, “First of all, I am definitely a hardcore conservative, a patriot to the core. I agree, I’m not going to say I agree with everything that was said because I don’t want to be wrong and miss something, but I can’t think of anything I heard today that was said that I disagree with. We’re all on the same page.”

Jackson said what it meant to him to look into the matter further is to talk more with Remington, investigate more and find out where he really is “because I also don’t want to just have a mob mentality where we just lynch a person, feel good about it and don’t accomplish anything.”

He said his grandchildren go to Wawasee and if they had masks, he would also be in the offices there every day to speak his mind.

Dr. K.T. Kishan, a retired surgeon of almost 40 years, said COVID-19 caught the medical community off guard and it’s still learning about it.

“People are dying. This is not just the flu. … This is not just in the United States. This is all over the world. We’re talking about people dying on the street,” he said, adding that they need to take the disease seriously.

Kishan said there are a lot of studies being done, but social distancing doesn’t really work. As for masks, he said they’re not for the person wearing them but for those around the person. Any time a person coughs, sneezes or whatever, fine particles are released into the air. Kishan said no one can prove that masks are going to be 100% effective, but no mask has been proven to be ineffective either. When a person coughs or sneezes, they try to protect others around them by covering their face – the mask works in the same way.

“The problem is, the freedom comes with the responsibility,” Kishan said.

He also said when a person goes to a medical doctor, they never say a cure is guaranteed. Kishan said if he operates on a patient, they could drop dead.

“So, the thing is, everything is a risk and a benefit ratio,” he said, adding that there’s no proof, only “evidence, evidence, evidence” because without evidence, “there is nothing.”

He also said they should talk about the issues, not a person. “We can not denigrate or demonize a person. That’s not a Christian principle,” he said.

Terry Wood, of Warsaw, said members of the Health Board and members of the Warsaw School Board living under the same roof, married to one another, seemed like a conflict of interest. He also said Hoffert serving on the Health Board seemed like another conflict of interest. He asked what the Health Board’s vote on reappointing Remington was. After the meeting, Health Department Administrator Bob Weaver said it was a unanimous vote by the Health Board to reappoint Remington.

He said parents were asking for full transparency from officials and elected officials.

After Katye Fussle asked the Commissioners to hear what they were saying unlike the School Board, Weaver pointed out Remington has served as the public health officer for 26 years and he’s never issued a mandate or order.

Appoint Or Elect?

Matt Dick, a former Warsaw School Board member, asked if the public health officer position could be moved from an appointed position to an elected position.

Ormsby said the state dictates that.

“And what we’re dealing with now is a new law, Senate Bill 5. That was the law that was passed by the legislature, vetoed by the governor and then the legislature overrode that veto. So this is a new procedure for all the counties across Indiana,” he said. “What it used to be is, the County Commissioners would appoint the Board of Health members and then the Board of Health would select the public health officer. Commissioners didn’t have anything to do with that.”

The new law provides that the Board of Health still appoints the new health officer for a term of four years, but the Commissioners are now able to approve or not approve that public health officer, Ormsby said. “So what the Indiana legislature has done is put that in a more responsive position to the people. I think they were anticipating something like this meeting or people were giving feedback, and that’s where the law stands now,” Ormsby said.

According to a copy of Senate Enrolled Act No. 5, provided by Ormsby, “Each local board of health shall appoint a health officer to serve for a term of four years. The health officer serves until a successor is appointed and qualified. The health officer must be a licensed physician. After June 30, 2021, the appointment of a local health officer is subject to the approval of the appropriate county legislative body. If the appropriate county legislative body fails to approve a nominated individual on two separate occasions, the individual is barred from further consideration for the position.

“The appointment shall be certified by the county executive and sent to the state department. The state department shall maintain a record of the certification.

“The health officer is eligible for reappointment.”

Raelene Hirschy, a county resident, said the fact that Remington has been in his position for 26 years was too long. She advocated for term limits, as did Jackie Bradley, who spoke next.

Jackson commented that the crowd was acting like they and the Commissioners were on opposite sides, like a murder court trial. He said the Left wants to divide everyone, and that Remington was pro-life, a Christian, pro-Second Amendment and for the Constitution.

“The Left wants to divide us,” Jackson said, pointing out that while the Left is united, the right has pro-vaxers and anti-vaxers and pro-maskers and anti-maskers.

“The Left is united against us. We need to get together to take our country back. We’re not going to get it by shooting our own people … we need to watch what we’re saying, attacking people personally … but we all need to come together or we’re all going to lose,” Jackson said.

Comments from Teresa Martin and Elizabeth Ogle finished out the meeting, with Ogle stating that while COVID is real, the pandemic was made up.

The next Commissioners meeting is Nov. 23 at 9 a.m.