Misunderstandings cause conflict at county board meeting

ESCANABA — A discussion about whether or not to support Michigan State University Extension due to MSU’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) requirements was interrupted Tuesday when Delta County Commission Chair Dave Moyle, who is legally blind, clashed with a deaf resident.

Durring the discussion on supporting MSU Extension with a 4% increase in funding for services in the county, Moyle repeatedly asked for the audience to be quiet and warned that individuals in the back of the room were out of order. Multiple individuals then interjected that the people in the back were explaining the meeting to resident Glenda Nevala, who is deaf.

Moyle said he could accommodate Nevala, but while responding to a male audience member in a different part of the room that began yelling, Nevala called out, “I have a right to know what’s going on.” Moyle then told Nevala, she was out of order and would be asked to leave the room.

“Not being able to see them, I assumed it was all one large group that was intentionally being out of order, as they have been in the past,” Moyle told the Daily Press following Tuesday’s meeting.

It was again explained to Moyle Tuesday that the audience was attempting to interpret the meeting. The male individual then began interjecting again and Moyle asked him to leave the room. Nevala, who may have thought the comment was directed at her, then said, “Call the cops, I don’t care.”

Moyle recessed the meeting and called law enforcement. When the meeting reconvened he apologized and said it was not his intention to ask someone who was auditory impaired to leave the room.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Moyle told the Daily Press he had been told individuals were saying disparaging things about him and had told Nevala “he’s calling the public safety to take you to jail.”

“If she was told what I’ve heard that she was told, that was a complete setup, and I don’t put it past my (political) opponent,” Moyle, who is one of three commissioners facing recall on May 7, told the Daily Press.

Upon reconvening the meeting, the commissioners once again began discussing whether or not to continue support MSU Extension and its programs despite MSU’s DEI requirements.

“I look at this as are they slowly indoctrinating our youth with what they’re putting in their programs?” said Commissioner Bob Barron Tuesday.

Tuesday was not the first time commissioners have spoken out against DEI, which some commissioners have argued promotes racism against white people and an LGBT+ lifestyle. Last July, the commission voted in a split vote not to approve an annual implementation plan from the Upper Peninsula Commission For Area Progress, commonly known as “UPCAP,” due to its inclusion of DEI training. That decision did not affect UPCAP’s funding.

How to accommodate and support people of different races, genders, and sexual orientations is a significant part of DEI programs. However, other types of diversity, including people with cognitive and physical disabilities, also fall under the DEI umbrella.

MSU Extension provides a wide variety of programs, including agricultural education, land use planning training, nutritional education, family and consumer education, and domestic violence prevention. They also provide access to experts through the “Ask Extension” program. Key for the commission, however, was 4-H, which is run by MSU Extension in the Michigan.

Commissioner Steve Viau made a motion to approve the 4% increase, which amounts to about $51,000 for the year, and the motion was seconded by Commissioner John Malnar. The motion failed in a 3-2 split vote, which prompted Moyle — who said he supported 4-H and would not vote against funding the program — to make his own motion to table the issue until the next meeting, when an MSU Extension representative can explain the DEI policies.

“I don’t want to move forward with approving something if I have one or two commissioners saying, ‘well, wait a minute.’ I’m not going to remove my support from the 4-H kids, period, but I do want to know what this gentleman has to say,” said Moyle.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the commission is May 7, the same day as the special election on the recall of commissioners Moyle, Barron, and Bob Petersen. Anyone who requires auxiliary aids or services for hearing impairment or other disabilities is asked to contact Delta County ADA Coordinator Jack Smith at 906-786-5189. Smith may also be reached in writing at 310 Ludington Street, Escanaba MI 49829.


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