Documents filed with the Ottawa County Clerk’s Office show that Spectrum Health and Health Pointe representatives are behind the group, Committee for Quality Healthcare Choices, which has sent out glossy mailers that urge people to vote “Yes” on the ballot referendum.
“The goal of the committee is to conduct an informational and educational campaign regarding the zoning referendum,” said Sam Moore, a political consultant with the committee. “There is a lot of misinformation being circulated throughout the community, and we want the voters to have as much information as possible regarding the facts of the zoning referendum when they vote on Nov. 8.”
The most recent campaign finance documents obtained from the Ottawa County Clerk’s Office show Spectrum Health and Health Pointe have contributed a combined $31,485.08 to the committee, which was launched in March by two Spectrum Health employees. Listed expenses for the committee include $13,851.50 for legal fees paid to Warner Norcross & Judd LLP, and a $53 reimbursement for the post office box registration.
Documents also show the committee was first organized using Spectrum and Health Pointe employee work addresses and emails, but later, an amended application was filed using home address information from the employees, which are in Grand Rapids and Spring Lake.
The Grand Haven Township Citizens Voice group, which collected enough signatures earlier this year to place the zoning referendum on the November ballot, are critical of the handouts and the committee behind them.
“This is a classic example of a large corporation outside the community using their money to buy an election and influence the vote. This group is a sham,” Grand Haven Township resident and Township Citizens Voice member Bob Brown said. “Their first filing listed Spectrum as their address and the two registered agent of this group are Spectrum employees — one who is the facility manager of Health Pointe.”
Representatives from North Ottawa Community Health System also chimed in on the mailers.
“We were very surprised at what was uncovered in recent media stories about Spectrum Health’s attempt to influence a local election in our community. Citizen’s groups should be comprised of just that, taxpaying citizens, not corporations,” NOCHS spokeswoman Jen VanSkiver said. “The lack of transparency is disturbing. The public has the right to know who is attempting to influence them.”
She noted that spending in excess of $30,000 on propaganda to influence a local election as opposed to giving it to the township to offset lost tax revenue or investing in better patient care was also troubling.
“Perhaps most perplexing is this — Spectrum is telling people how to vote on an issue they’ve repeatedly said ‘won’t affect’ the outcome of their project, Health Pointe. Why is that?” VanSkiver said. “Doesn’t seem like a wise investment. The taxpayers who live here deserve answers. When an organization has been part of a community as long as we have been, employing hundreds of local people — generationally, you develop a relationship based on trust with those you serve. We’ve never lost sight of that. Not in 100 years.”