Group demands Butler County commissioners take stand on mask mandates

A crowd of Butler County residents led by former Ohio Rep. Candice Keller are demanding the county commissioners take a stand on the state’s mask order and declare the county a “sanctuary” for those who choose to disobey mandates.

Keller quoted the Ohio Revised Code several times during the commissioners meeting on Monday and said they are basically breaking the law by upholding state mask mandates and quarantine orders that she argued are unconstitutional because the governor and health director issued them and not the legislature.

She asked that they publicly declare that the state and federal rules regarding pandemic restrictions don’t apply in Butler County. She was told the commissioners have no jurisdiction to get involved in state mandates.

“As far as the commissioners go, we have no legislative authority, zero,” Commissioner Don Dixon said. “That’s not my opinion, that’s the opinion I have in front of me from the Butler County prosecutor.”

Commissioner T.C. Rogers agreed.

“You’re pointing out that the governor does not the jurisdiction to make these (mandates), in the same way we don’t have the jurisdiction to counter those,” Rogers said.

Keller said the three commissioners are the “presidents” of the county and they have all the power that they need. She said there are other counties in the country that have made similar moves when illegal edicts have been issued by their states.

“We’re not asking you to make a law, we’re asking you to ignore illegal orders coming out of the governor’s office,” she said.

ExploreButler County governments tested powers during past year of pandemic, protests

Keller failed to mention her former colleagues in the statehouse already curtailed the governor’s pandemic powers by overriding his veto of Senate Bill 22 that takes effect next month.

She also read from a form quarantine letter issued by Butler County Health Commissioner Jennifer Bailer and said contact tracing is “completely a violation of right to privacy” and “absolutely outrageous.”

Several other people spoke during the meeting as well

“The EMA is run by you all and they have control over the health department, so who hired her? Who hired the health departments? You have three here,” another woman said. “The numbers are not consistent with shutting us down, with telling the businesses we have to have a face mask thing on the door, it totally goes against our rights as people.”

The commissioners told her both the EMA and health district are run by independent boards and all the commissioners do is provide them space to operate.

Another woman chided the commissioners for not agreeing to take action.

“I’m stunned, I’m extremely disappointed that (you) folks won’t take a stand on behalf of the citizens,” she said. “Everything that everybody has said coming up here has asked you to simply take the stand, declare what is true, not asking you to do anything out of your scope of authority.”

County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser told the Journal-News the commissioners have no “authority to modify by ordinance or resolution the mandates of the Ohio Board of Health.”

“We are all systemic law-followers and that’s what we do every day, we are not a sanctuary province or territory within the state of Ohio,” Gmoser said. “We are one county like the other 87 that follow the law and we will continue to do so, and we will follow the law until those laws are changed, or modified or cancelled.”

Keller warned the commissioners there will be repercussions if they ignore the will of their people.

“You are openly declaring now that you are willfully violating the oath that you take to obey the will of the citizens of Butler County,” Keller said. “So now our task is to find and elect people of integrity who will obey the true law and uphold it.”

Keller told the Journal-News this isn’t over.

“There were 50 people that I didn’t even know that showed up, I know they’re coming back next week, I’m not sure if I am or not,” Keller said. “We need to start exerting our local control rights.”

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