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A northern Michigan health officer says county leaders intimidated her and incited the public to threaten health department staff

The leader of a northern Michigan health department has filed a complaint with the state Attorney General against her own Board of Health.

Health Officer Lisa Peacock alleges the board, made up of county commissioners who oversee the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, started a campaign of harassment against her after she issued a mask mandate for K-through-12 schools.

She says they used intimidation and bullying tactics to try to get her to change her mind about her order, and then enabled threatening behavior from the public, which she says put herself, health department staff and others in danger.

In the complaint, Peacock says board members posted on Facebook that the “democratic process had been hijacked” and encouraged people to “stand up to” the health officer. Following those posts, she says she received aggressive, threatening emails, calls and social media messages.

Then the public came angry to the Board of Health meeting that took place at the Charlevoix Public Library in September.

At the start of the meeting, the Zoom recording had been infiltrated with racial slurs and pornographic content. Peacock writes in the complaint that one of her staff had heard rumors earlier in the day about a planned internet attack that would disrupt the public’s ability to access the meeting.

The Board heard four hours of public comment, which Peacock describes as dominated by “hateful vitriol mainly directed at [her]” and was “seconds away from a riot.” She recalls members of the public calling her a criminal against humanity and told her they’d be coming to arrest her for violations of the Nuremberg code.

She says throughout the meeting, as the crowd grew angrier, the police were resistant to help. Peacock says they were unwilling to move people into the overflow room when it became clear the room was too crowded.

And at one point she saw a police officer chatting and laughing with some of the loudest hecklers. The Charlevoix Police Department did not return a request for comment about the meeting, when contacted Thursday afternoon.

Shirley Roloff, a board member from Charlevoix County, says the meeting was more memorable than any she’d been to as a public official.

“Everybody was swarming in at the library. It was crazy,” she says. “I don’t think I ever ever witnessed a meeting that got like that.”

Peacock says in conversations with commissioners she later realized the meeting was “a planned ambush intended to bully and intimate me into rescinding the order.”

Ongoing social media posts sparked concern about workplace violence so the health department locked down to the public for two days, Peacock writes in the complaint. The Michigan State Police informed them intelligence had picked up on social information indicating potential threats toward the health department.

A spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Attorney General, Lynsey Mukomel, says the office received Peacock’s complaint, but she said it’s standard procedure for local law enforcement to handle it first.

She says the Attorney General’s Office may take the case if it determines the alleged threats against Peacock rise to criminal behavior.

Seven members of the Board of Health did not respond to requests for comment about the allegations by deadline.

Shirley Roloff declined to comment about Lisa Peacock’s complaint.

“I’m just one out of eight members of the health board so I really can’t answer that,” Roloff said. “The only thing I could say is that I certainly would not have liked to be in [Peacock’s] position.”

Two members of the board representing Emmet County resigned in the last two weeks, citing personal reasons.

Taylor Wizner covers heath, tourism and other news for Interlochen Public Radio.