It's official. Really, really official.
The "What's up your butt?" colon cancer awareness billboards won't be coming to the Tri-Cities.
Health board members -- who also are the Benton and Franklin county commissioners -- voted 5-0 on Wednesday to reverse a vote last month allowing the Benton Franklin Health District's name to be used on the controversial advertisements.
Board member Leo Bowman was absent.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
The board unanimously agreed April 20 to allow the district's name to be used on the billboards, which would have been paid for by the Yakima Health District with grant money leftover from its own campaign.
But the next day, after receiving complaints from residents who thought the ads were in poor taste, Board Chairman Jim Beaver said he wanted to rescind the vote.
The campaign included billboard advertisements showing people with pained expressions and the phrase, "What's up your butt?"
It's designed to be an in-your-face way of raising awareness about the dangers of colorectal cancers and the need for people to get screened for the disease.
The Benton Franklin Health Board was shown images of the billboards that had been displayed in Yakima, with the slogan, before members voted in favor of the campaign.
After hearing from Beaver on April 21, Dr. Larry Jecha, the district's public health officer, polled the other five board members by email and they agreed to yank their permission for the campaign.
The Herald raised the question whether board members legally could take back their vote by email.
Tim Ford, open government ombudsman for the state Attorney General's Office, said it sounded like the board had conducted a meeting by email, which is a no-no under Washington's open government law.
"All meetings have to be noticed and open to the public. With emails you can't do that," Ford told the Herald in April.
He suggested they would have to take another vote at their next public meeting, which was Wednesday.
On Wednesday, board member Shon Small, a Benton County commissioner, said he believed the board was misled before the previous vote by being told the billboards would go up in Benton and Franklin counties regardless of whether the board supported them.
"I do not like turning around and having negative publicity about information we weren't given properly," Small said.
Jecha told board members at the April 20 meeting that the Yakima Health District would go ahead and buy the billboards without the Benton Franklin district's name if they chose not to support the campaign.
But it wasn't until after the Benton Franklin health board reversed its support April 21 that the Yakima district decided not to bring the campaign to the Tri-Cities.
Dennis Klukan, Yakima Health District administrator, told the Herald on April 22 that his district wouldn't go against the local health board's wishes if its members didn't want the campaign in the Tri-Cities.
Small told the Herald after the Wednesday meeting that he interpreted the information as meaning the board only had two options at the time -- allow the Benton Franklin Health District's name to be used, or say no but the billboards would come anyway.
He said he thought if they were coming anyway, they might as well bear the local health district's name.
Small said he was frustrated to learn later that having no billboards at all also was an option.
"I'm one of those individuals -- you react on the information you receive," Small said.
He said he agreed to withdraw support even before knowing the "no billboards" option existed because of the feedback he received.
"We got several complaints," Small said. "We're going to do what the taxpayers wanted."