Serving Franklin County, WA

Commissioners recess meeting after continued mask dispute

PASCO — The Franklin County Commission is in recess this morning, Tuesday, Aug. 31, after two commissioners objected to holding an in-person meeting with the chairman and an audience member maskless.

The 9 a.m. session after a lengthy delay.

“I’m going to start my remarks this morning by putting a request on the record that we have a discussion about moving forward with remote meetings,” Commissioner Lowell “Brad” Peck said. “I think we should recess and move to a remote meeting so we can all stay legal and avoid potential criminal complaints.”

Peck continued the session by offering a report, before Chairman Clint Didier spoke.

“I have proposed to (County Administrator) Keith (Johnson) that if you’re not comfortable not being in here … If the other commissioners want to be remote, that’s your choice,” Didier said, noting he would be remaining in the commission chambers.

Commissioner Rocky Mullen, too, offered his report, although it was interrupted by a caller.

Mullen chastised the Benton Franklin Transit Service for failing to discuss cancelation of its bus service to the fair without first having discussed the matter with the transit board.

“The decision was made without first consulting the board,” he said.

Didier, too, offered a similar report, questioning why the transit service “singled out” fair-goers in canceling related service while continuing with other bus operations.

As Didier wrapped up his report, Commissioner Peck chastised people entering the meeting chambers without wearing a mask.

“We’ve got some folks that have joined us, that whether you believe masks are necessary or not, I’m going to please ask you to get a mask,” Peck said, suggesting failing to wear a mask makes the meeting an illegal session. “The law is pretty clear.”

“There, we have a difference of opinion,” Didier responded.

According to Didier, a constitutional attorney had reviewed last week’s disputed meeting, noting that the governor does not have any legal authority to mandate masks.

“There is a big distinction between a mandate that our legislature supposed granted to our governor,” Didier said. “They can’t freely give that power to the governor. It’s not written in the Constitution.”

Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Sean Sant took to the microphone to acknowledge there is a difference of opinion on where the decision-making lies.

Following further comments by Sant, Peck moved to recess and reconvene in a remote session. Commissioner Mullen agreed.

The meeting was recessed until 10 a.m.

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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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