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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

Former County Administrator of Ottawa County John Gibbs has been fired and the repercussions are already in motion

13 On Your Side
Former county administrator John Gibbs already speaking to the press after his recent termination.

Ottawa County has undergone a series of radical—and controversial—changes over the past year. After dissolving the County Offices of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, firing their Health Director, and employing a far-right legal corporation to replace the Ottawa County Corporate Counsel, Ottawa County has been under the deliberate watch of the community to see what new volatile changes are put into order.

Perhaps one of the most significant changes that took place in the board meeting on Jan. 3, 2023, was the unscheduled decision to fire previous county administrator John Shay and replace him with the 2022 midterm congressional candidate and Donald Trump endorsed, John Gibbs. Throughout his career, Gibbs has, like most politicians, suffered through a deep dive into his background and the controversies of his past. One of these controversies is a comment he made in an interview on Real America’s Voice on Nov. 1, 2022, where Gibbs stated that he believed women’s rights and Social Security were not significant issues that voters care about.

This is only one of many misogynistic comments he has made; in the early 2000s, when Gibbs attended Stanford, he openly praised organizations fighting to repeal the 19th Amendment and even founded a website called The Society for the Critique of Feminism. On this website, he states that citizens should challenge the modern notion of feminism and critique the conclusion that feminism benefits all. One of the points he brings to attention is that the essential characteristics of women make them unfit to work in government positions, which is ironic considering his mother worked for the Michigan Department of Transportation for 33 years (CNN Politics).

“Some argue that in a democratic society, it is hypocritical or unjust for women, who are 50% of the population, not to have the vote,” Gibbs’ website read. “This is obviously not true, since the founding fathers, who understood liberty and democracy better than anyone, did not believe so. In addition, all people under age 18 cannot vote, although they too comprise a significant portion of the population. So we cannot say that women should be able to vote simply because they are a large part of the population.”

“We conclude that increasing the size and scope of government is unequivocally bad,” Gibbs added. “And since women’s suffrage has caused this to occur on a larger scale than any other cause in history, we conclude that the United States has suffered as a result of women’s suffrage.” (CNN Politics & The Society for the Critique of Feminism).

Although he has since rescinded his statements and referred to the website as a satire created to provoke the liberals on campus, it is difficult to take what he says at face value when his ideologies seem to be constantly shifting. 

Gibbs’ most recent controversy has now expanded to a lawsuit over ageism and discrimination. In Oct. of 2023, a lawsuit was filed by 49-year-old Ryan Kimball against Gibbs after he was passed over for a job as executive aid to the county administrator. Instead of Kimball, 23-year-old Jordan Epperson was hired for the role despite only meeting one out of the 12 criteria for the position whereas Kimball met 11 out of the 12. The hiring panel involved Gibbs, his secretary Stephanie Roelofs, former county deputy administrator Patrick Waterman, and human resources director Marcie VerBeek (age discrimination lawsuit).

Both VerBeek and Waterman had issues and concerns about the situation after comments made by Gibbs throughout the interview process.

“During one of the first sessions, a comment was made, that (Gibbs) would be able to boss Jordan around. Mr. Gibbs made the comment that he preferred Mr. Epperson because he would be able to boss him around,” said VerBeek (13 On Your Side). 

Ageism and preferring one candidate over another because they’re easier to control is both politically and morally wrong, and this discrimination is what led Kimball to file the lawsuit for compensation. Waterman and VerBeek both stated that Epperson had refused to shake hands with any women during either of his two interviews, again raising the question of this possible misogyny is why Gibbs hired him. 

Due to the lawsuit, he was then put on administrative leave, and Gibbs threatened that if he were fired, he would pursue legal action and then after offered his resignation for $630,000. Shortly after, Ottawa County’s Legal Counsel sent a seven-page letter to Gibbs’ lawyer with allegations of sexual comments, threats of violence, and even bugging his office to secretly record conversations and meetings. After these allegations, Gibbs’ contract was terminated, and he is now pursuing legal action as threatened and “spreading the truth” about his termination, where he claims he was fired for speaking out against corruption and that all allegations against him are false (Fox 17 West Michigan).

The search for a new county administrator could take months, but Gibbs certainly won’t stay quiet about his time in the position, and he isn’t going to take his termination lying down. A few tense months of turmoil are expected in Ottawa County as they frantically try to replace Gibbs’ role in the department and not the immense controversies and criticism accompanying him.

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About the Contributor
Addie Woltil
Addie Woltil, Copy Editor
Addie Woltil is a sophomore entering her second year writing for The Central Trend. She is excited about another year of writing on staff and more to come. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with friends, going to the mall, and watching overrated reality TV shows. She loves ending her day in room 139 and can't wait for what's next. Favorite fruit: Mango Favorite TV show: How I Met Your Mother Favorite day of the year: July 24th

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