Democrat SJC Health Board Member Removed After Illegal Appointment

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — REAL News Michiana has learned a member of the St. Joseph County Board of Health has been replaced. This comes after an RNM investigation into member Emily Dean that led to the discovery that Mayor James Mueller appointed her to the position illegally. Questions surrounding the political make-up of the St. Joseph County Board of Health revealed that many board members were not being appointed properly or legally, but for a completely different reason, according to a source familiar with the shake-up.

In 2017, the law on how board members are appointed to Indiana local health boards was updated and clarified. Formerly, appointments to St. Joseph County’s health board were divided among the county commissioners and the mayors of South Bend and Mishawaka. The 2017 change required that all appointments going forward would be made by the commissioners alone. 

In December 2021, RNM called out the health board for having too many Democrats. Indiana statute says the board cannot have more than four members of one party serving at the same time. Recent primary records showed five members voted most recently in Democratic primaries, including President Heidi Beidinger-Burnett; Vice President Dr. Jason Marker; Dr. Ilana Kirsch; Dr. Michelle Migliore; and Emily Dean. Members Dr. James Shoemaker and John Linn both voted most recently in Republican primaries. 

Dean did not attend health board meetings while lawyers studied the situation, according to RNM’s source.

Upon further review, the health board determined that they consider party affiliation to be based on primary votes most near the time of a member’s appointment to the board. Marker voted in a Republican primary prior to his appointment in 2018, so the board considers him a Republican appointee, despite being an obvious democrat.

While Dean’s party affiliation was no longer in question, her reappointment in January 2021 to the board by the South Bend Mayor James Mueller became an issue. That appointment should have been made by the commissioners and was therefore invalid.

Last week, the commissioners voted unanimously to fill the open vacancy with Ellen Reilander, a lawyer and homeschool mother of three who resides in South Bend. Indiana state statute says that at least two of the board’s seven seats should be occupied by members of the general public. 

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