Serving Franklin County, WA

Franklin County looking into mask harassment

Benton Franklin Health District doesn't have authority to cite business, county officials say

PASCO — Franklin County officials are concerned Benton Franklin Health District employees may be “harassing” businesses that are not enforcing coronavirus-related face mask madates.

Commissioner Clint Didier brought up the issue during a meeting this morning, Aug. 4, after receiving complaints from owners of businesses on 20th Street.

“Are they currently out checking into businesses and threatening them with fines,” Didier asked County Administrator Keith Johnson, referring to Health Department employees.

“No, absolutely not,” Johnson said, noting agency doesn’t have the authority to cite businesses that do not enforce face mask mandates from the governor’s office. “The Health District doesn’t have the personnel nor is it in their scope of work to shut people down.”

Didier said business owners confirmed Health District employees, not state Department of Labor and Industries workers, that had visited them.

“I don’t want the Health Department harassing businesses,” Didier said.

“I don’t disagree with that,” Johnson said.

Both noted they’ll look into the issue further.

The mask mandate was issued by Gov. Jay Inslee last month.

Ironically, the governor cannot enforce the order either. Inslee's attorneys defended him in U.S. District Court last month by claiming he couldn't be sued because he cannot enforce the orders.

Under federal law, only a public employee connected with enforcement of an alleged unconstitutional action who can be sued.

Gov. Inslee has been sure to distance himself from enforcement, instead referring enforcement requests to the State Attorney General's Office, Labor and Industries and law enforcement.

Author Bio

Roger Harnack, Publisher

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Roger Harnack is the co-owner/publisher of Free Press Publishing. Having grown up Benton City, Roger is an award-winning journalist, photographer, editor and publisher. He's one of only two editorial/commentary writers from Washington state to ever receive the international Golden Quill. Roger is dedicated to the preservation of local media, and the voice it retains for Eastern Washington.


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