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HHCC board celebrating impact on community while county questions nonprofit's future

Healthy Henry County Communities Director Kelly Carr encouraged the board to celebrate the positive impact it has on the community instead of focusing on the uncertainty of the future after the county questioned the legality of giving money to the nonprofit.

Carr and the Board of Health, which Carr is a member of, was informed during a board of health meeting on Oct. 30 that it is against the Iowa Constitution for a government body to gift money to a nonprofit organization. This includes Carr’s salary as a county employee.

While HHCC remains an entity separate from the county, Carr is a county employee per a memorandum of understanding signed by then Board of Health chair Rose Lauer and HHCC board chair Anita Hampton on Jan. 9.

“Unless it can be clearly proven this is illegal, we have to fight for the benefits of what Healthy Henry County brings to this county,” Carr said during an HHCC board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Carr also apologized to the HHCC board that she did not alert them about this sooner, saying she showed up to work on Tuesday, Oct. 30, thinking there could be a small chance it could be her last day of employment.

In an email to county auditor Shelly Barber from Pam Bormann from the state auditor’s office on Monday, Oct. 29, Bormann wrote that the Iowa Constitution prohibits governmental bodies from making a gift to a private nonprofit corporation.

“The county paying an employee to also be the executive director of a private nonprofit corporation is, in essence, making a gift to the corporation,” Bormann wrote in her email.

HHCC board member Ken Brown said they should be provided with a “legal definition” of the section of the Iowa Constitution that says no public money or property shall be appropriated for local or private purposes. So far what they have been provided is someone else’s interpretation, Brown said.

HHCC board members questioned why it is now coming to the county’s attention that it may be illegal for them to give HHCC money. For the past several years, they have been giving them $11,000 annually.

Henry County supervisor Gary See, who sits on the HHCC board, said that when Public Health was in the process of becoming a county department, they “focused too much on the board of health coming to us … and Kelly’s piece we didn’t pay much attention to.”

Public Health became a county department on July 1. While Carr sits on the board of health, HHCC runs separately from Public Health.

Carr is planning on scheduling a meeting with the county attorney Darin Stater for advice on how HHCC can proceed.

The Henry County Board of Supervisors, Board of Health and HHCC board will meet on Nov. 20 at 1 p.m. in the Henry County Courthouse for further action.

The next HHCC meeting is Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 1 p.m.