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Sanders County board of health receives training

The Sanders County Board of Health met at the Sanders County Courthouse for their scheduled training last week. The Wednesday training focused on board ethics in operation, responsibilities and meeting structure. The training was given by Dan Clark from the Montana State University Local Government Center. During the training, Clark interacted with the board members to dig into some of their questions on meeting policy and how to handle public comments.

Clark explained during the meeting that the public has a right to participate in meetings and to be given plenty of notice beforehand. “They want to see how the sausage is made,” said Clark. He also explained that there are two rights often in conflict at these types of meetings. One is the right of a person to privacy and the other is the right of the public to be made aware of things that concern them. He explained that the board should often choose the public in these matters as, “we’re making the sausage on their behalf.” He prompted that the board find ways to encourage and assist the public to participate in local government.

However, he explained, “it is a two-way street.” The public brings forward information to the board, and the board is responsible with presenting information to the public. In this relationship, Clark explained, local government must find ways to expedite this process, do the best with the information that they have and manage public expectations. These expectations are often handled through being forthwith concerning meeting protocol.

Clark explained that it is beneficial for health boards to be “insulated” from politics and based on science. “This pandemic is multifaceted, challenging and constantly changing. We need to look at it through many views, from science to public comment,” he added.

Clark ended the training, explaining that by putting all of these elements together, from managing expectations and intaking public information, boards can effectively aid the public. “It’s really the unknown that bothers people,” said Clark. A good board can inform the public while organizing meeting agendas to anticipate questions, he stated, so meeting participants understand the thought process and the result by the end of the meeting.


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