Baldwin County consumer advocate and publisher Paul Ripp filed a writ of mandamus today in Baldwin County Circuit Court seeking an emergency hearing to compel Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack to enforce Gov. Kay Ivey’s “safer at home” order issued April 28.
The order, which allowed retail businesses to open at 50 percent capacity but required “close contact” services to remain closed and restaurants to only offer delivery or carry-out, became effective May 1. But yesterday, Mack said he sent a letter to the governor asking to relax the order, while he made a statement on Facebook indicating his office would not enforce it.
Instead, he said the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office would merely “notify” offenders the governor’s order was still in place, but would rely upon other regulatory or law enforcement agencies to enforce it.
Ripp’s complaint cites case law, as well as March 21 guidance from the Alabama Office of the Attorney General indicating violations of the order are considered misdemeanors punishable by fines of between $25 and $500, and “prosecutors and law enforcement should be aware of their authority to act as needed to enforce the state health order.”
“While the unprecedented nature of this pandemic and the government’s evolving response seem to demand some restraint related to criminal enforcement of this order, if a violator has been made aware of the state health order and the refusal to comply presents a threat to public health and safety, the penalties … are available as an enforcement tool,” the guidance concludes.
“Sheriff Huey Mack stated publicly that he intends to defy enforcement of the order,” Ripp’s complaint states. “This creates an emergency situation that the petitioner has a clear right to have enforced in Baldwin County. This appears to be political activity against an unpopular order and the petitioner has the same rights as any other citizen in Alabama to have this legally adopted order enforced.”
Calling it a “dereliction of [Mack’s] enforcement duties,” Ripp claims it also “creates an immediate public health crisis” and therefore is seeking an emergency hearing due to the ongoing closure of the courts and the governor’s order’s tentative expiration date of May 15.
Allegedly, Mack was served with the complaint this afternoon, but did not immediately respond to request for comment. The case has been assigned to Circuit Court Judge Clark Stankoski, who set an emergency hearing Friday, May 8 at 9 a.m.
This story has been updated to note an emergency hearing has been set.Filing
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