Gallatin Health needs to fire disgraced health officer Matt Kelley to save Bozeman, Montana

The Gallatin City-County Board of Health met on May 28, 2020, to vote to move to Phase 2 of reopening. What did not happen at that meeting continues to haunt the Gallatin Valley.

On that day, this body recognized that the Phase 1 rules were more than were needed. That was an implicit recognition that Health Officer Matt Kelley’s March 16th shutdown was unnecessary. The numbers proved that beyond all doubt — Phase 1 was more than enough.

Kelley bet big — and he lost. He committed the biggest public policy mistake since Fort Ellis.

He shut down the entire town and his own department’s numbers conclusively proved it was unnecessary. But this Board refused to hold him to account when it should have shown integrity and commitment to sound public policy by firing him on the spot.

Nobody should have been surprised that someone who failed so thoroughly has continued to fail.

To this day, there is not an adequate testing program. There’s never been an adequate testing program. There has never been an adequate surveillance testing program — not even in Big Sky. The money stolen for the wastewater testing program was entirely wasted as Kelley ignored the data.

And now Kelley is failing at vaccinations. It is unforgivable that he is wasting vaccines on people over 80 instead of giving them to school teachers to get students back in class. Such public policy malpractice could only have resulted in from a “Garbage In : Garbage Out” process.

No one with any understanding of public policy can point to a single thing Kelley has done competently.

And then — adding insult to injury — Kelley pushed the big lie that coronavirus is nocturnal. The loss of credibility that has resulted from Kelley’s big lie only occurred because this Board refused to fire him when the numbers proved he was unfit to hold any position of public trust.

The indefensible early closing time also proved that Kelley has yet to understand the mathematical formula that governs social distancing. Which is troubling, because it isn’t complicated.

Simply put, the formula is square footage divided by people — spread over time.

This is why sane governments rushed last spring to move restaurants outdoors. But Kelley never understood the basic dynamics and made no such effort to do so. Adding insult to injury, one legendary local establishment took the initiative to do by themselves what Kelley should have been pushing — and they were harassed by Bozeman Police for “noise” violations.

If Kelley understood these dynamics, closing time would be 2 a.m. as was set by the legislature — as the same square footage could safely allow more people over time. But Kelley never grasped such a simple concept and instead made things worse by compacting people in artificially limited hours. It is difficult to imagine how somebody could be so incompetent and keep their job.

It also proved he has no clue as to what is actually going on with enforcement of the rules that actually make sense. If he’d asked any bar manager on Main Street, he would’ve learned that the problem with masks and table restrictions isn’t young people late at night, it’s Baby Boomers during happy hours and early in the evening. So he made things worse without ever addressing the actual problems that should be his focus.

And now he’s screwing up vaccinations.

Stop the insanity. Finally, fire Matt Kelley. Instruct County Attorney Marty Lambert to dismiss the ridiculous lawsuit. Live in reality. Care about sane public policy. Focus on accountability for unforgivable mistakes. Take ownership of your failures.

And most of all, stop setting an awful example for the youth. The history of this era is going to be written by the victims of your corruption and all of you will come off looking like shit.

But maybe it’s necessary for things to get worse before citizens are finally pissed off enough to fix your mess long-term. Maybe Bozeman would be better off if our racist prosecutor gets disbarred and tried for Official Misconduct under M.C.A. 45–7–401 in his spat with Attorney General Austin Knudsen. Maybe it’s better if there’s a fall ballot initiative to get rid of this body and the position of public health officer — this department has done more damage in the last year than all of the good it has done since its inception. Maybe it takes more protests at Kelley’s house. Maybe there just isn’t enough outrage yet.

If this Board refuses to make things better, it will be left to citizens to fix your mess — and that may very well be in the long-term interests of our victimized community.

Until then, people will have to cross the county line to get to a place where government acts like Montanans. And if anyone dies driving back from a neighboring county — that blood will be on Matt Kelley’s hands. And on yours.

My views only, sometimes even less. ☮♲♡