All three Butler County commissioners have contracted the novel coronavirus, as have other leaders around the county, but there are protocols in place to handle governmental business in these unprecedented times, the Journal-News reports.
The county commissioners could not hold their regular Monday meeting this week because all are ill. Commissioner T.C. Rogers told the Journal-News he developed flu-like symptoms Friday night but doesn’t have a fever or cough. He was tested for COVID on Saturday and received the results back Tuesday.
The 72-year-old said while all three of them have the virus, they can still sign necessary documents and plan to hold their next meeting virtually. Rogers’ quarantine will lift Monday evening.
“The ship will go on,” he said. “None of us, from what I understand, seem to be in danger of death, so as long as we can talk, we can sign our papers and we’re in communication over the phone.”
The three have mostly been masked during their weekly meetings but Rogers said they haven’t necessarily been six feet apart at all times. Working in the construction field, he said he might have contracted the illness in that venue.
Commissioners Cindy Carpenter and Don Dixon confirmed via text with the Journal-News that they have the virus but neither felt up to talking. Carpenter said she is “really sick” and is on day five of battling the disease. Dixon said he is feeling better now but was also pretty sick.
County Administrator Judi Boyko said the agenda for this week was pretty light and items for the commissioners’ approval and two public hearings, including the controversial Land of Illusion expansion, will be considered during a virtual meeting Monday.
The commissioners at this point don’t appear to be in grave danger and Boyko said she has been in communication with them when she has needed to consult on various matters. When asked what her authority is in dealing with emergencies while all three commissioners are ill, she said statute governs that.
“Upon my arrival, the Board of Commissioners considered adopting rules and protocols for conducting meetings and delegation of duties,” Boyko said. “No provisions were agreed to or adopted so until a policy position is adopted, Butler County follows the statute.”
Under a worst-case scenario, if two commissioners are not available to perform their duties, state statutes install the county coroner, in this instance Dr. Lisa Mannix, as a temporary commissioner. There is no provision if all three are unable to conduct business.
Cheryl Subler, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, said the coroner is a logical choice among elected officials to serve as a “safety net.”
“The coroner was selected as the one to help step in, in those very limited situations because he probably in the day-to-day duties of his office has lower conflicts of interests with the responsibilities of the commissioners from a budgetary and contractual responsibility,” Subler said.
West Chester Twp. Trustee Board President Ann Becker conducted their Tuesday night meeting virtually because she has COVID. The Oct. 13 board meeting was canceled because Trustee Lee Wong was suffering from COVID. Fire Chief Rick Prinz was released from West Chester Hospital last week after battling COVID for a couple of weeks.
Becker said she noticed she had lost her sense of taste on Nov. 8 while grabbing a bagel at Kroger.
“I’m sitting there eating and I’m like what the heck flavor bagel did I grab, I’m looking at it like this is an everything bagel, it doesn’t taste like anything,” Becker said. “I’m sitting there looking at it and then I was like well I’m kind of getting congested and then two hours later I was wrecked. I was asleep, I couldn’t get up, my energy was gone."
She said she never had a fever or cough either but was ill for about a week. She’s ready to “get out of jail” now but is quarantined until this weekend.
Wong said he had a 104 degree fever for two days but after that his smell and taste returned, and his COVID experience was mild. He was told he could catch it again.
“Right now my antibodies they say at least good for two months,” Wong said. “So just be careful, of course I don’t run around with no mask. I’m the most cautious person. You social distance and mask, this you don’t mess around, it is serious business."
The Journal-News polled the other large jurisdictions and officials in Hamilton, Fairfield and Monroe and Fairfield Twp. said to their knowledge none of the elected officials or department heads have tested positive for the virus. Middletown has had one department head test positive. In the event they encounter a situation like the county has, they are prepared to conduct business virtually.
Oxford City Manager Doug Elliott explained that cities are not as vulnerable in crisis situations.
“The city of Oxford has a different governing structure than the county and townships where the elected commissioners and trustees serve in a dual role as policymakers and administrators,” Elliott said. “Under the council-manager form of municipal government, the city council serves as the policymaking body and the city manager serves as the administrator or chief executive officer implementing council policy.”
The Journal-News is a media partner of WCPO 9 News.