Wynne Lacey’s position on the Oak Park Board of Health became the source of controversy last winter because of her beliefs about vaccination. Her decision not to vaccinate against COVID-19, while acceptable, and her comparisons of mitigation measures to punishments drew much criticism, with many calling for her to step down from the voluntary commission.
Lacey, apparently, has been doing it ever since.
In an April 23 email to the health staff liaison board, Lacey said she would not be attending future committee meetings. Wednesday’s Journal obtained the email through the Freedom of Information Act.
“I will no longer be attending Board of Health meetings as a volunteer,” Lacey wrote. “I spoke with the President [Vicki] Skaman to let him know. Good luck!
Lacey’s quiet departure is in direct contrast to how she loudly shared her beliefs just months ago.
The short email – just three sentences in its entirety – was sent just three days before the health board meeting in April. Lacey, who was absent from the March commission meeting, made her last appearance at the Feb. 22 health board meeting.
It is unclear whether Lacey’s decision to resign was influenced or independent of public criticism of her views on vaccinations. She did not respond to requests for comment. Lacey previously stated that she did not consider herself an anti-vaxxer.
Despite being notified of Lacey’s decision, Scaman told the Journal on Wednesday that he doesn’t know if the criticism was the reason for her departure. Scaman said she had previously spoken with Lacey “on numerous occasions” to “better understand her perspective,” but that Lacey never got specific about the criticism she faced.
“I’ve spoken to him on numerous occasions,” Scaman said. “And the last one she can refer to [in the email]it’s that she didn’t think she would be effective on the board of health.”
Lacey, according to Scaman, wanted to see a greater value placed on “differences of opinion.”
“She just didn’t think her opinion would be respected by her peers,” said the village head.
Lacey’s views on vaccinations are in direct opposition to the Oak Park Department of Public Health, which considers vaccinations an essential public health function.
“There shouldn’t be a difference of opinion about vaccines,” Oak Park Public Health Director Chapple-McGruder previously told the Wednesday Journal.
In a recent interview, Chapple-McGruder did not share her thoughts on Lacey’s departure, saying only that the health department values all of its volunteers.
However, Lacey is still technically a commissioner on the health board, as her April 23 email does not count as an official resignation letter. As to why Lacey’s resignation hasn’t been made official after so many months, trustee Susan Buchanan offered some guesses.
“From the village’s perspective, I’m speculating that they decided not to pursue her because the important thing is that she doesn’t attend meetings so she doesn’t spread lies about COVID and the vaccine,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan has been one of Lacey’s biggest critics. In addition to serving as liaison to the health care board, Buchanan is an occupational medicine physician and a faculty member of the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. Her views have not softened since Lacey resigned.
“I would prefer an official resignation, so [Lacey] he cannot participate in the meeting”, she said.
Village staff is now working to formalize Lacey’s resignation, according to Scaman, so a replacement can be named to the health board. Citizens must submit an application to be considered to serve on any of the village commissions.
The village board receives final approval for appointing citizen candidates to commissions, but candidates must first be interviewed by the Citizen Involvement Commission.
When asked if the village board will fill Lacey’s vacancy with someone who supports vaccination as a central tenet of public health, Scaman said he didn’t think it was appropriate for someone to be on the health board if they didn’t believe in it. Illinois guidelines. Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As the country now grapples with a monkeypox outbreak on top of COVID-19, Buchanan took a tougher stance on anti-vaccination rhetoric.
“There is no place at the Oak Park Board of Health for lies and misinformation about infectious diseases or any health issue for that matter.”