Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan declared Wednesday that there was “no way” he would resign from the county health board amid criticism of his statements questioning the safety of vaccines.
Other council members have begun the process to strip him of his appointment.
Fagan sparked controversy recently when he posted messages to his Facebook page questioning the safety of vaccines – three days after the Spokane Regional Health District asked members of the public to make sure they are up-to-date on their measles vaccines.
Fagan is the only member on the 12-person board that governs the health district who has expressed concerns about vaccines. Most other members of the board have denounced his position.
On Tuesday, Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart called on Fagan to resign from the health board. Today, Fagan responded on Facebook.
“Just so the question is answered, there is NO WAY that I will be resigning from the board of health,” Fagan wrote in his post. “The council will have to remove me because they do not believe that democracy needs a broad spectrum of ideas and opinions to make it effective. If we were all of the same mind, we wouldn’t need a lot of things like councils, boards and commissions.”
Attempts made to reach Fagan were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Councilman Jon Snyder drafted a letter from the rest of the council to Fagan asking him to “clarify” his statements on vaccines.
“If you fail to do so the Council will be compelled to reconsider your appointment representing the City Council on the Spokane Regional Health District board,” the letter states.
Snyder said he expects the letter to be voted on in a special meeting this afternoon.
Given other statements Fagan posted on his Facebook page Wednesday, it appears unlikely that Fagan will be clarifying his position in a way that satisfies most members of the council. Fagan is soliciting responses from anyone “that has had a bad experience with vaccines.” He also has posted more links to articles questioning vaccines.
Snyder said a vote would be held on another day to remove Fagan.
Councilman Mike Allen said he will not sign the letter addressed to Fagan or vote to remove him even though he strongly disagrees with Fagan’s position on vaccines.
“I don’t agree with one single thing Mike has said, but Mike is entitled to say it,” Allen said.
Allen said the council should not police other council members work on the other boards they serve.
“If every time we disagree with somebody on one of our boards, do we just remove them?”
But Snyder said Fagan serves on the health board as one of three members who represent the Spokane City Council. If the rest of council disagrees with a fundamental issue, the council should consider removing him so they are better represented. Council members were unaware of Fagan’s position on vaccines before he was appointed to the health board, Sndyer said.
“It’s kind of like being on a transportation board and being against bridges,” Snyder said.
Stuckart said the public will be allowed to testify about the letter at today’s meeting, which will be at 3:30 p.m. in the council’s briefing center in the basement of City Hall. Stuckart said he didn’t want to wait until the next regular City Council meeting since Monday’s meeting is cancelled for President’s Day.
“I wanted to address this issue right away,” Stuckart said. “We all thought that was important.”
Stuckart said he will support removing Fagan from the board unless he clarifies his position in a way that aligns with the health district’s positions on vaccines.
Fagan was chosen by Stuckart for the health board in 2014 to fill a seat that had been filled by Stuckart. Stuckart said he gave his seat to Fagan after county leaders complained that the three Spokane City Council members appointed to the health board were too liberal.
“I didn’t know we were appointing somebody who had anti-vaccination views who would go against the health district’s mission,” Stuckart said.
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