Enough Faribault County commissioners ignored the County Attorney’s advice and recommendation to reject a “Citizen’s Rights” resolution at their Jan. 19 meeting.
On a 3-2 vote, County Board members approved the resolution introduced by commissioner Tom Loveall on behalf of Garth Carlson, owner of Carlson Event Center located in the old school in Winnebago.
The two-page resolution asks county officials to not enforce the governor’s executive orders, says the county has sufficient resources to address the COVID-19 pandemic and that the commissioners support opening businesses without restrictions or limitations.
“Fundamental liberty issues are set forth in the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that prohibit the state from depriving any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law,” says the resolution.
In a six-page legal opinion, County Attorney Kathryn Karjala warns the resolution is “unconstitutional” and could result in lawsuits and loss of potential coronavirus relief aid.
“The requestor herein (Garth Carlson) is asking the Faribault County Board of Commissioners to ignore and disobey state law,” says Karjala. “To do so, risks enforcement action by the Attorney General’s Office not only for the county but also for small businesses who disregard the executive order in reliance on the county’s actions.”
The county’s first allocation of relief aid totaled $1.736 million and was awarded another $268,008 last December.
Voting in favor of the resolution were commissioners Loveall, Greg Young and Bruce Anderson, while John Roper and Bill Groskreutz voted against.
Carlson last month was sued by the Attorney General’s Office for planning to hold a New Year’s Eve “bash” in violation of an executive order.
According to the county attorney, commissioners are being asked to take a political stance on an issue of importance and not a resolution aimed at helping county businesses or residents.
A number of cities in the county have been presented with similar resolutions, she says, but city councils have declined to adopt them.
Karjala says rulings by the state’s Supreme Court have found executive orders to be constitutional and that the U.S. Supreme Court has even declined to take up a challenge to a governor’s authority regarding the pandemic.
“Executive orders are good law and Faribault County is obligated to comply with state law,” she says. “Our system of government is simply not set up for counties to pick and choose which laws they abide by.”
Karjala says the board cannot direct how other elected officials, such as the sheriff and county attorney, carry out their duties.