By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Commissioners debate resolution on COVID rules

County commissioners on Thursday debated a resolution proposed by Mary Starrett that she said would protect businesses violating the governor’s executive orders on COVID-19.

They eventually decided to continue the discussion next week.

The resolution questions all facts about the disease rates and death rates reported by the state of Oregon. It states that it constitutes evidence for use in court that “persons and entities, including medical providers, within Yamhill County are not subject to findings of negligence per-se on the sole basis of having engaged in activities that are inconsistent with executive orders related to the Coronavirus.”

However, County Counsel Christian Boenisch said it would not be a “get out of jail free card,” and if business owners presented it as a court defense, “it would be up to the judge to decide how much weight they would give it.”

Boenisch believes a judge would give the document little or no consideration if a business owner made no efforts to comply.

“It is not meant to suggest to individuals … that they can choose to ignore or willfully noncomply with those rules or regulations,” Boenisch said.

Starrett told her colleagues the resolution “would in effect open up our county, give our businesses the ability to get back to work, and to provide them some cover.”

However, questioned by Commission Chair Casey Kulla, Boenisch refuted many of Starrett’s points.

“This is not a document that I would consider to quote unquote ‘open the county back up,’” Boenisch said.

Starrett later admitted they do not have the authority to completely open local businesses, “although I wish we could,” she said.

She added, “I would like to say that if we can give them some measure of comfort in that they could have perhaps a little more protection from the overreach that is coming not only from the governor’s office but also from the OLCC and OSHA, I’d like to be able to say that here in Yamhill County, we’re doing that.”

Olson said he also disagrees with Governor Kate Brown’s decision to authorize the state Occupational Health and Safety Administration to enforce business mandates.

However, Boenisch said the resolution “would not be saying to the governor or OSHA, we disagree with your ability to exercise your authority in this way. That’s not what we’re doing.”

Kulla said, “But I thought the effect of passing this resolution was to open our county and get people back to work.”

“It is not,” Boenisch said.

Starrett also contended the state’s information on COVID-19 spread and mortality rates is incorrect. Her comments relied on a study she said called data on the virus into question; however, it had not been included in the meeting packet or forwarded to Kulla and Olson before the meeting, an oversight for which Boenisch apologized.

Starrett had invited one of the study authors to attend the Zoom meeting to answer questions, but Kulla said he wanted a chance to read the study before continuing the discussion. He also objected when Starrett read aloud a document different from the resolution put out in the county meeting packet.

Boenisch said he would forward the study before next Thursday’s meeting.

The legal process of passing such a resolution was the topic of an executive session held by commissioners last week.

According to County Administrator Ken Huffer, 21 people submitted public comments on the proposed resolution.

The county does not make public comments available until after the meeting, and the News-Register did not have time to review and report on public input by print deadline. See Tuesday’s News-Register for a follow-up.

Comments

Amity fan

Here we go again, another waste of time by Mary Starrett trying to politicize the pandemic with a meaningless resolution. Its a waste of taxpayer time and county resource. A county resolution - even if it passed - means nothing. More waste by Mary Starrett.