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Some Suamico leaders against face masks

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

SUAMICO – Following last week’s emergency order from Gov. Tony Evers requiring face coverings indoors to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the village board discussed the issue Monday, Aug. 3, with three of the seven members not wearing masks at village hall.

Village President Laura Nelson requested the matter be placed on the agenda.

She was among those not wearing a face mask, along with trustees Dan Roddan and Michelle Eckert.

Nelson said she questioned whether the order was legal and expected it to be litigated before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

“I am also, as you can probably see, not wearing a face mask, and am generally not in favor of face masks, anyway,” Nelson said.

Though a provision in state law allows the governor to issue an executive order declaring a state of emergency related to public health, Nelson said Evers previously issued a state of emergency this year because of COVID-19, which expired after 60 days and was not extended by the Legislature.

“So, I’m not even sure (the governor’s latest order is) valid,” she said.

Nelson said she finds it outrageous a private citizen who doesn’t know her could report her for not wearing a face covering.

“That’s just something you would find in communist Soviet Union,” she said.

Eckert said she finds the matter isn’t about wearing face mask, but rather freedom.

“If that’s what you choose to do, that’s what you choose to do,” she said. “But if a government entity is mandating it – we hear a lot of mandates here – it’s sick… it’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment. And what are we going to do next – line up for microchips? I mean, this is insane. It’s a start. It’s a beginning. It’s them biding their time to see how much more they can take, how much more they can get.”

Roddan said enforcement of the face covering mandate locally was addressed July 31 when Brown County Sheriff Todd Delain issued a statement the sheriff’s office will not be responding to complaints of individuals violating the governor’s mandate, nor will it be taking any direct law enforcement action as it relates to the mandate.

However, Delain said the sheriff’s office will continue to respond to reports or complaints from a business owner, manager or other premise owner who has already requested that an individual leave a premise for failing to comply with the face covering mandate as it relates to that specific premise.

The Village of Suamico contracts with the sheriff’s office for law enforcement services.

“If someone calls in someone, says they’re not wearing a face mask, what repercussions do we have as a village to actual do anything? The only thing (the sheriff’s office) can currently do is submit a criminal (district attorney) referral,” Roddan said. “That’s it. We don’t even have anything, a mechanism, a proper mechanism, to manage this situation.”

Because the sheriff addressed the issue of enforcement, Roddan said there isn’t anything the village needs to do.

“I think this board does have an opinion, and does have a voice, when it comes to how our law enforcement will handle our citizens and handle our businesses,” he said. “I think we’re doing it the correct way. If someone doesn’t want you in their establishment, if you’re not wearing a mask, that’s that business’s right to do so, and that’s a business right to have you leave. If you don’t leave, that’s when our law enforcement will be able to take care of it.”

Board members both wearing and not wearing masks at the meeting were in agreement the village should not enact its own ordinance mandating face coverings.

Trustee Sky Van Rossum said he chooses to wear a mask to prevent the virus from spreading to others, if he were to have it.

Van Rossum said the issue of face coverings needs to be decided at the state level, where he expects the emergency order will be rescinded.

“It doesn’t belong here in local government,” he said.

Van Rossum said the list of frequently asked questions included with the emergency order states someone should do nothing if that person sees someone else not wearing a mask, because some people have conditions or circumstances that would make wearing one difficult or dangerous.

When asked about someone coming into the Suamico village hall without wearing a mask, Village Administrator Alex Kaker said the village will also do nothing as directed by the state.

Public comments

The board’s public comment period included two people critical of the state face covering mandate.

Former Village President Patricia Jelen quoted Benjamin Franklin’s comment about people giving up essential liberty to obtain temporary safety deserving neither liberty nor safety.

Jelen said “there is a danger looming in the highest office of the State of Wisconsin, and that danger is Gov. Evers’s socialist agenda.”

“Last week, he mandated the wearing of masks for all citizens of the state without proper representation,” she said. “No one voted on it. It was not in legislation, but it was passed by fiat. I know it will be headed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and hopefully they will see to overturn that mandate.”

Jelen urged the board not to authorize local police to enforce the mandate.

“They have better things to do,” she said. “They should be going after real criminals.”

Jelen called the face covering mandate “a nonsensical order that’s nothing more than a political stunt in the weeks before a hotly contested presidential campaign.”

“Please say ‘no’ to enforcing Gov. Evers’s overreaching mandate,” she urged the board. “Say ‘yes’ to freedom. Say ‘yes’ to liberty. Say ‘yes’ to protecting all of our rights. This is America, where we should be free to make our own decisions, and not afraid that a police officer is around the corner with a ticket book in hand. This is the best country in the world, not some socialist [expletive], not yet anyway.”

Amy Rubright also spoke in opposition to the emergency order.

“This is ridiculous, this is absurd,” she said. “Propaganda comes to mind. This is becoming a fashion statement. This is a health thing. My kids are at karate right now wearing masks, so these people don’t lose their business. It’s ridiculous. My kids are not going to go to school, because of masks, because of fear, and this needs to stop.”

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