Enforcement questions arise on county health orders

By Dave Marner, Managing Editor
Posted 4/1/20

A Gasconade County Health Department order issued late Monday afternoon is coming under question about how it can, or will, be enforced.

Owensville City Marshal Robert Rickerd first addressed the …

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Enforcement questions arise on county health orders

Posted

A Gasconade County Health Department order issued late Monday afternoon is coming under question about how it can, or will, be enforced.

Owensville City Marshal Robert Rickerd first addressed the question following the city’s meeting on March 23 and said he did not believe he or his patrolmen had authority to enforce an order issued at the county level. Gov. Mike Parson had issued a March 21 order calling for the state’s Division of Health and Senior Services director to order “social distancing” across Missouri.

The order called for avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people and said Missourians “shall avoid eating and drinking at restaurants, bars, or food courts” while yet allowing for the use of drive-up, pick-up, or delivery options for obtaining food.

Going to grocery stores, gas stations, parks, and banks was not prohibited as long as you practiced social distancing — a 6-foot separation is suggested — between people who are not family members. The governor’s order (20-05) went on to note, “local public health authorities are hereby directed to carry out and enforce the provisions of this Order by means of civil proceedings.”

The governor’s order did not mandate residents remain in their residences but the county on Tuesday afternoon sent out a notice telling residents to stay at home.

“My head is spinning,” said Rickerd on March 23. “Until we can get a directive to step in an enforce this, it’s my opinion the Department of Health is responsible to enforce it.”

The following morning, Rickerd issued a statement saying, “I am asking all citizens and businesses that fall under this new directive to please adhere to the request of Governor Parson. I know times are difficult right now, but the last thing I would want is for the Owensville Police Department to be placed in a position, that we would prefer not to be, to enforce the temporary directive. This is only a temporary thing and I hope for brighter days in the near future.”

Fast forward a week and Rickerd’s opinion has not changed.

“I can assure you my officers and myself will not be out arresting people,” he said Tuesday. City police will continue to enforce local ordinances and state traffic and criminal law. However, said Rickerd, “It’s going to have to be something of a serious nature” for city police to get involved with violations which do not meet criminal standards.

“There’s just so many exemptions,” said Rickerd. “This would be very hard for me and my officers to try and implement and enforce with so many exemptions. Go to the park or check on the well-being of a family member. There’s just so many exemptions in this. It’s just not feasible to try to enforce.”

As for businesses potentially impacted by the health department’s efforts, Rickerd said local police won’t be the ones addressing the situation.

“Do what you’re asked to do but it’s your call,” he said. “If the Department of Health has an issue, they’ll have to take it up with the businesses.”

City adopts ‘temporary

protocol’ in case of illness

Owensville aldermen in their March 23 meeting enacted an ordinance declaring a declaration of emergency as a “temporary protocol” to ensure city government operates in case of the incapacitation of elected officials.

Brian Samples, the city’s administrator who resigned effective the following morning, introduced city Bill No. 2020-6 which became Ordinance No. 1323 following three readings and a unanimous 4-0 roll call vote.

The bill, said Samples, allows for the paying of city bills if the elected officials are unable to meet in a quorum. “If two or three of you are incapacitated, we can still pay the bills,” Samples told the board as they met in an essentially empty City Hall meeting room, tables positioned in an open-ended rectangular configuration.

The city’s attorney, said Samples, “beefed it up a little more than I had” noting the ordinance was “patterned off of the Missouri Municipal League website and Crystal City and Festus” documents.

Ward 1 Aldermen Kevin McFadden noted the ordinance allowed them to keep it in effect as long as there was a state of emergency declaration.

“As long as there’s a state of emergency in force, we don’t have to keep renewing it every 30 days,” McFadden told his fellow elected officials.

Administrator resigns

Samples and the city parted ways as of this past Tuesday afternoon when he left his signed separation agreement along with his city-issued laptop computer, cellular telephone and keys on his desk, turned off the lights and closed the door.

He reportedly left City Hall staff with a gift card to a local restaurant and thanked them for their assistance over the past six months.

Aldermen on March 23 accepted Samples’ resignation on the motion by Ward 2’s Rob Borgmann “pending the receipt of a written resignation and signage of a separation agreement.”

Ward 1’s Cathy Lahmeyer, who was one of two aldermen conducting the initial screening of 58 candidates during the summer of 2019, offered the second to Borgmann’s motion in the closed session discussion lasting an hour and 15 minutes. It was approved on 4-0 roll-call vote.

According to city records of the action, the city agrees to pay Samples a month’s salary and will not seek reimbursement for the $1,000 it granted him for moving expenses when he took the job in September 2019.

In his resignation letter dated March 24, he wrote, “While being here during my probationary period, I have decided that a permanent move to Owensville from Kentucky is not in the best interest of myself or my family. I am looking forward to my return home.”

He provided a similar response for The Republican’s March 25 story on the Board of Aldermen vote from closed session.

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