Mayor, representative at odds over mask rule

A lawmaker from Yukon says he believes the city’s mayor overstepped her authority last month when she issued a proclamation requiring employees of certain businesses to wear masks.
Rep. Jay Steagall said Thursday he has had three discussions with Mayor Shelli Selby about her proclamation that was issued July 10.
That proclamation requires bar and restaurant workers to wear masks while on the job. Failure to do so could result in a fine or jail time.
The proclamation was issued as the number of cases of COVID-19 have continued to rise in both Yukon and Canadian County.
However, Steagall says he doesn’t believe Selby has that authority; only the city council does.
Steagall said he has visited with legal experts at the State Capitol as well as private attorneys, and all have come back with the same response — the proclamation isn’t legal.
“The authority to institute laws in our form of government is at the legislative level, and that’s the city council. The city council never voted to implement an ordinance,” Steagall said.
State law, he said, gives that authority to the governing body to enact laws on public safety and health issues.
“It doesn’t give the mayor the authority to enact those rules,” he said.
Steagall said he doesn’t oppose a mask rule, but feels the current proclamation is overreaching.
He also pointed out that the state Supreme Court recently ruled that Norman had violated several businesses’ 14th Amendment Rights by keeping those businesses closed while others could open.
However, city attorney Gary Miller, who is a former district judge, disagrees with Steagall.
He said during a recent city council meeting work session that Selby was given the authority by an ordinance passed in 1967 by the city council.
That ordinance, he said, gives the mayor the right to declare an emergency and set regulations when it involve public safety or public health issues.
Steagall said he respects the mayor and what she is attempting to accomplish, but the ordinance should be approved by the council.
“I’m glad the city is doing something to address it. I want to make sure we are operating within the
confines of the law. In this instance, we are not. That is something the council will need to address whenever they deem fit,” Steagall said.
Meanwhile, Selby has sent a letter to the Speaker of the House saying that Steagall is harassing her because of the proclamation.
Selby’s letter says she feels threatened and felt the need to file a police report.
Selby said she filed a complaint with Police Chief John Corn. However, it has not been made public.
Selby, in the letter, states that “the harassment and bullying has gone on long enough.”
“Representative Steagall is newly elected to the House of Representative of the state of Oklahoma, it would seem that he needs guidance on what is appropriate and ethical. I am confident that you, in your leadership, will educate the good Congressman on his powers and purview,” she wrote.
Selby sent the letter also to the governor and other officials via certified mail on Wednesday and emailed the officials on Thursday.
She said Thursday she had not received a response.
Selby said she took the action of writing the letter because Steagall was making threats and then began contacting her friends.
Meanwhile, the mayor said she continues to stand by her decision to issue the proclamation.
“The Canadian County Health Department says it is an airborne virus. They recommended masks for everyone,” she said.
Selby said she hasn’t heard from any bar or restaurant owners who have complained about the proclamation.
“I want people to be safe when eating their food,” she said, pointing out that several restaurants had to close briefly after employees tested positive for the virus.
“We’ve had four complaints but no tickets have been issued,” said Selby.
Most comply once they realize there is a proclamation in place.
Those that don’t could face fines of up to $700 or jail time.
“We’re not out to fine people. We want the bars and restaurants to be open and want to keep the community safe,” Selby said.
The proclamation will remain in place until the emergency ends, Selby said. That won’t be until the number of cases begins to decline.
“Our numbers are not decreasing. They are increasing. This is a local issue, not a state issue. It is a medical and economical decision,” she said.
As of Thursday, there have been 533 positive cases in Yukon, including two deaths. There are 127 active cases, the health department reported.

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