Chapter 24.01


24.01.010    Purpose.

24.01.020    Establishment.

24.01.030    Administrative director, health officer appointments.

24.01.040    Powers and duties.

24.01.050    Creation of health board.

24.01.051    Health department advisory board created.

24.01.060    Powers and duties of health board.

24.01.080    Contracts for the sale of health services.

24.01.090    Nonconsensual claims against the health district.

24.01.100    Severability.

24.01.010 Purpose.

This title is enacted as an exercise of the police power for the benefit of the people at large. It is not intended to create a special relationship or private right with any individual or individuals, nor to identify any particular class of persons. The purpose of this title is to provide minimum standards to safeguard public health and welfare by regulating and controlling the activities considered in this title and any related work. It is not the intent of this title to impose liability upon the county for failure to perform any discretionary act. Rather, it is the intent of this title to place the obligation of complying with its requirements upon the owner and actor. Nothing contained in this title shall be construed to relieve from or to lessen the responsibility or liability of any actor or landowner for action taken or failure to take action, nor shall the county of Whatcom or any officer, agent or employee thereof incur or be held as assuming any liability by reason or in consequences of any permission, certificate of inspection, inspection or approval authorized in this title or issued or given as in this title provided or by reasons or consequence of any things done or acts performed pursuant to the provisions of this title. (Ord. 89-24 (part)).

24.01.020 Establishment.

Under authority of the Whatcom County Home Rule Charter Section 2.20(c), RCW Chapter 70.05, and other applicable state statutes, there is created a health department (hereafter referred to as the “department”), an executive department. The department shall commence operation on April 1, 1989; provided, however, that the county executive may take any preliminary or transitional steps necessary for the formation of the department and the implementation of this chapter. (Ord. 89-24 (part)).

24.01.030 Administrative director, health officer appointments.

A. Administrative Director. In accordance with RCW 70.05.040, the county executive may appoint an administrative director separate from the health officer. The administrative director appointed by the county executive shall be subject to confirmation by a majority of the county council. The administrative director shall be appointed for an indefinite period and shall serve at the will of the county executive.

B. Health Officer. In accordance with RCW 70.05.050, the county executive may appoint a local health officer who shall meet the qualifications as prescribed in RCW 70.05.050 through 70.05.055. No term of office shall be established for the health officer, but the health officer shall not be removed from office until after notice is given and an opportunity for a hearing before the county executive as to the reason for the officer’s removal is provided. The health officer appointed by the county executive shall be subject to confirmation by a majority of the county council.

C. The executive is authorized to enter into an interlocal agreement with other counties to provide temporary coverage for the health officer when the health officer is temporarily unavailable either through a vacation or a prolonged illness, without council confirmation. If the unavailability is to last three consecutive months, council confirmation of the appointment shall be required. (Ord. 2001-018 Exh. A; Ord. 95-037).

24.01.040 Powers and duties.

A. Administrative Director. The duties of the administrative director shall be as outlined in RCW 70.05.045, as well as general management, oversight and administration of the health department.

It is the responsibility of the administrative director to hire departmental staff, except for the health officer, in accordance with the personnel policies and procedures of the county and any other applicable laws and regulations.

B. Health Officer. The powers and duties of the health officer shall be as outlined in RCW 70.05.070.

If no administrative director has been appointed, as provided in WCC 24.01.030(A), the health officer, under the direction of the county executive, shall have the powers and duties as outlined in RCW 70.05.070 and the powers and the duties of the administrative director as outlined in subsection A of this section.

If an administrative director is appointed in accordance with WCC 24.01.030(A), the health officer shall have the powers and duties as outlined in RCW 70.05.070 under the direction of the administrative director.

C. Disclosure of Information. In the event of a public health emergency, the health department shall promptly and continually:

1. Disclose all information requested by emergency management division, county executive, or county health board that is required to perform their respective duties effectively.

2. Provide a brief daily update to the public in a format and level of detail as approved by the supermajority vote of the county health board.

D. Nothing herein shall be construed as requiring the health department to release confidential health care information protected by state or federal privacy laws. Such information shall be redacted prior to the release of documents containing such information.

E. If the requested information involves a matter that can be heard in executive session under RCW 42.30.110, the health officer, administrative director, county executive, county health board chair or their respective legal counsel may request that the matter be heard in executive session. (Ord. 2020-021 Exh. A; Ord. 95-037).

24.01.050 Creation of health board.

The Whatcom County council shall constitute the official county health board, in accordance with RCW 70.05.035. Items for health board consideration shall be referred to the county council, unless required by law. (Ord. 2004-004; Ord. 99-025; Ord. 95-055; Ord. 93-024; Ord. 91-040 (part); Ord. 90-10 Exh. A (part); Ord. 89-24 (part)).

24.01.051 Health department advisory board created.

A. The county health department advisory board, referred to in this chapter as the “public health advisory board,” is created and shall serve in an advisory capacity to the health board and the health department director in the following areas:

1. Provide input to the local board of health in the recruitment and selection of an administrative officer, pursuant to RCW 70.05.045, and local health officer, pursuant to RCW 70.05.050;

2. Use a health equity framework to conduct, assess, and identify the community health needs of the jurisdiction, and review and recommend public health policies and priorities for the local health jurisdiction and advisory board to address community health needs;

3. Evaluate the impact of proposed public health policies and programs, and assure identified health needs and concerns are being met;

4. Promote public participation in and identification of local public health needs;

5. Provide community forums and hearings as assigned by the local board of health;

6. Establish community task forces as assigned by the local board of health;

7. Review and make recommendations to the local health jurisdiction and local board of health for an annual budget and fees; and

8. Review and advise on local health jurisdiction progress in achieving performance measures and outcomes to ensure continuous quality improvement and accountability.

B. The public health advisory board shall consist of 21 members who are residents of the county.

1. Members shall be appointed by the local board of health. A local health officer and a member of the local board of health shall serve as ex officio members of the board. The county council will appoint the ex officio member of the health board that will serve on PHAB.

2. Advisory board members shall serve for staggered three-year terms. This does not preclude any member from being reappointed. Terms will be in accordance with WCC 2.03.030 unless no one else applies.

3. The term of office for the member appointed by the county council shall be for one year, from the time of the council’s reorganization meeting in January to the next such meeting the following year.

4. The public health advisory board shall be broadly representative of the character of the county. Board diversity is valued. Membership preference shall be given to tribal, racial, ethnic, and other minorities. The advisory board shall consist of a balance of persons with expertise, career experience, and consumer experience in areas impacting public health and with populations served by the health department. The board’s composition shall include:

a. Members with expertise in and experience with:

i. Health care access and quality;

ii. Physical environment, including built and natural environments;

iii. Social and economic sectors, including housing, basic needs, education, and employment;

iv. Business and philanthropy;

v. Communities that experience health inequities;

vi. Government;

vii. Tribal communities and tribal government;

b. Consumers of public health services;

c. Community members with lived experience in any of the areas listed in subsection (B)(4)(a) of this section; and

d. Community stakeholders, including nonprofit organizations, the business community, and those regulated by public health.

5. The local health jurisdiction and local board of health must actively recruit advisory board members in a manner that solicits broad diversity to assure representation from marginalized communities including tribal, racial, ethnic, and other minorities.

C. At its initial meeting, or as soon thereafter as practical, the public health advisory board may elect officers, adopt bylaws and such rules and regulations of procedure as are necessary for the conduct of its business. Meetings of the public health advisory board shall be subject to the Open Public Meetings Act, Chapter 42.30 RCW et seq. (Ord. 2022-064 Exh. A; Ord. 2019-040 Exh. A; Ord. 2004-004; Ord. 99-025; Ord. 93-024; Ord. 91-040 (part)).

24.01.060 Powers and duties of health board.

The county council in its capacity as health board shall have the following legislative powers, in accordance with RCW 70.05.060, and other legislative duties that may be established by state or county law:

A. Enact such local rules and regulations as are necessary in order to preserve, promote and improve the public health and provide for the enforcement thereof;

B. Establish fee schedules for issuing or renewing licenses or permits for such services as are authorized by the law and the rules and regulations of the State Board of Health or as recommended by the executive; such fees for services shall not exceed the actual cost of providing any such services;

C. Make recommendations to the executive on matters affecting public health.

All issues to be addressed under the powers of the health board shall be processed through the county council under the forms and procedures established for the normal conduct of county business as established by the Charter, ordinance or administrative procedure. All ordinances, resolutions, and other actions taken by the county council relating to issues under the jurisdiction of the health department, or as otherwise specified in this title, are made under the joint authorities of both general county powers and specific health department authorities contained in RCW Title 70. (Ord. 99-025; Ord. 95-055; Ord. 91-040 (part); Ord. 90-57 (part); Ord. 89-24 (part)).

24.01.080 Contracts for the sale of health services.

In accordance with RCW 70.10.150, the department shall cooperate with and enter into contracts or interlocal agreements with the cities in the county to provide those cities health services, which may include enforcing appropriate city ordinances as has been done in the past. The contracts shall be on such terms and under such conditions as the executive shall negotiate and they shall be reviewed by the county council prior to the county council’s adoption of the annual budget. The department may receive moneys from public and private entities to carry out services set forth in this chapter. (Ord. 99-025; Ord. 91-040 (part); Ord. 90-57 (part); Ord. 89-24 (part)).

24.01.090 Nonconsensual claims against the health district.

Nonconsensual claims against the BellinghamWhatcom County health district, health officer or health board claimed to be caused before the effective date of the ordinance codified in this title from such things as, but not limited to, nonfeasance, misfeasance, malfeasance, negligence, interference with contractual relations, breach of contract or lack of due process are not assumed by the county health department. The county may administer such claims as it deems appropriate, and shall charge the cost of administration of the claim and/or the cost of any settlement, award or damages agreed or determined owing as a result of actions of the health district or its agents back against the entities which comprised the health district in accordance with the same formula which would have been used to determine contributions had the district not been dissolved. (Ord. 99-025; Ord. 91-040 (part); Ord. 89-24 (part). Formerly 24.01.100).

24.01.100 Severability.

If any part of this title is deemed illegal, the validity of the remaining portions shall not be affected and the rights and obligations of the parties shall be construed as if the title did not contain the particular illegal part. If it would appear that any provisions of this title are in conflict with any statutory provisions of the state of Washington, such provisions of the title shall be deemed inoperative and void and shall be modified to conform to such statutory provisions. (Ord. 99-025; Ord. 91-040 (part); Ord. 89-24 (part). Formerly 24.01.110).