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Records: Health department morale issues raised last fall

Despite concerns, health chief got overall high marks on evaluation

ALPENA — Concerns regarding the morale of District Health Deparment No. 4’s employees were brought to Health Officer Denise Bryan’s attention in her evaluation last November, according to documents The News obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

Bryan’s ability to lead the health department was publicly called into question last month by Lauren Kreuger, who identified herself as a Health Department nurse practitioner. At a health board meeting, she called members of the leadership team “incompetent” and claimed they mistreat staff at the department responsible for public health initiatives in Alpena, Presque Isle, Montmorency and Cheboygan counties.

The Executive Committee of the department’s board has met in closed session twice since Kreuger made those allegations, apparently to discuss Bryan and her team.

Cheboygan County Commissioner Michael Newman, who has been among the most vocal about the issue and told The News recently he had moved to terminate Bryan last year, said last week he was “very excited about the direction the committee looks to be going … I really think some real positive things came out of” the recent meetings.

The health board plans to continue discussions at its meeting today. Chairman Bert LaFleche said last week the board still plans to meet behind closed doors. Michigan’s Open Meetings Act allows personnel matters to be discussed in private if requested by the employee.

Bryan refused to comment when reached by phone on Monday.

The records obtained by The News on Monday show the Health Department board gave Bryan a “fair” rating last fall for her ability to maintain “a climate which attracts, keeps and motivates a diverse staff of top quality people,” as well as her ability to “establish long-term financial goals to allow for future projects.”

She received a “three” on those metrics, on a scale that goes from one – or excellent – down to four – or poor.

Those were her lowest marks.

“The area of concern I have is the amount of turmoil and employee discontent that occurred recently,” Alpena County Commissioner Bob Adrian, who serves on the Health Department board, wrote on Bryan’s evaluation.

However, Bryan’s evaluation was mostly positive and the department’s Personnel Committee gave her an overall performance rating of 1.5, commending her for organizing and leading the health department over the past year.

“You took on an organization that needed leadership and direction. This was met with many challenges and difficulties and in the end, the organization excelled,” the evaluation said. “I don’t think you had enough time to develop the needed relationships to avoid some of the problems we encountered.”

Bryan is an employee of District Health Department No. 2, contracted to also run No. 4 but only required to be in the No. 4 office two days a week. Bryan has worked at No. 4 since January 2017.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

If you go

∫ WHAT: District Health Department No. 4 board meets

∫ WHEN: 10 a.m. today

∫ WHERE: Thunder Bay Community Health Service, 15774 State St., Hillman

∫ INFO: The board is expected to continue discussions behind closed doors of allegations of mismanagement by the department’s leadership team. Call 989-356-4507 for more information.