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Palm Coast Friday, Jul. 3, 2020 6 months ago

Flagler government officials agree not to pursue a mask mandate; sheriff says mandate would be unenforceable

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County Commission Chairman Dave Sullivan supports a mandate but with no penalty.
by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

Updated 9:40 a.m. July 5

Government officials from Flagler County, Palm Coast and Flagler Beach had a conference call the morning of July 3 to discuss the possibility of instituting a mandatory mask order, but they concluded that it would be unenforceable and therefore unwise to pursue, according to County Administrator Jerry Cameron.

Instead, the governments will continue to strongly encourage mask wearing to stop the spread of COVID-19. Flagler Sheriff Rick Staly was the only elected official on the call; others were Flagler County Emergency Management Chief Jonathan Lord, Palm Coast City Manager Matt Morton, Flagler Beach Police Chief Matt Doughney, County Attorney Al Hadeed and Bunnell City Manager Alvin Jackson.

Meanwhile, some Volusia cities have mandated masks, including Daytona Beach, DeLand and New Smyrna Beach, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

The July 3 phone call to consider a Flagler mandate was held at the encouragement of Flagler County Commission Chairman Dave Sullivan, who favored a mandate but without any penalty. That way, everyone gets the clear message to wear masks but without overburdening law enforcement.

“To me it’s a no brainer, but apparently it’s not that way with the majority of the other people,” Sullivan said in a phone call with the Palm Coast Observer on July 3.

Sullivan, along with the mayors and other officials signed a letter asking everyone to wear masks, but not requiring them.

Sullivan and Cameron both believe compliance with mask wearing has been increasing of late. Cameron said he hopes advertising campaigns will continue to increase compliance even more in the next month or so.

Staly, before the call with the other government leaders, said on WNZF’s “Free For All Friday” that he didn’t support a mask mandate. He questioned the constitutionality of a mandate and also the enforceability.

“I don’t think it’s the role of law enforcement to be the mask police,” Staly said.

He added that COVID-19 is dangerous, but we can’t compromise the rights protected in the Constitution, “even in a pandemic.”

Other news publications have interviewed Constitution experts who said a mandate is legal. For example, wjhl.com quoted Constitutional scholar Stewart Harris this way: “as a pure issue of constitutional law, I think that any governor, pursuant of the police power, should be able to mandate the wearing of masks.”

Poynter.org’s research also says a mask mandate would be legal.

State Rep. Paul Renner, an attorney by trade, said in a later email to the Palm Coast Observer that he did think a mandate would hold up in court, as long as the mandate was "narrowly tailored to situations in which the science proves it is effective."

"However," Renner continued, "I still don’t support the broad mandates we have seen that everyone must wear a mask when you go outdoors regardless of the circumstances. Any such restrictions should be limited, i.e., if you are going to be in a group where you cannot socially distance. I’m opposed to any mandate that forces people to wear masks to walk their dogs, go to the mailbox, or engage in dozens of other activities when you are not going to come in close contact with others.

"That said, we should all wear a mask if coming in close contact with someone is a possibility. I would strongly encourage people to use a mask in those close quarters situations to protect themselves and others, but do not support the types of broad, sweeping mandates with fines for violations that have been passed in other areas of the state and country, whether they might be found constitutional or not."

Brian McMillan has been editor of the Palm Coast Observer since it began in 2010. He was named the Journalist of the Year for weekly newspapers in North America by the Local Media Association in 2012. He lives in Palm Coast with his wife and five children. Email...

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