DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Until a statewide measure was announced, local governments were creating a patchwork of stay-at-home orders.
Tri-County Public Health’s order — impacting Douglas, Arapahoe and Adams counties — did not sit well with some elected leaders.
The Tri-County order did not come from elected leaders. That’s the issue for some Republican lawmakers.
By Thursday, the whole state will be under a unified order, creating consistency.
Before the governor made his move, Tri-County Health, like the city of Denver, already took action. Denver’s mayor ordered people home, while Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties were mandated the sweeping change by unelected Tri-County Health officials. Both actions are completely legal.
State Rep. Patrick Neville of Castle Rock expressed frustration on Twitter, writing the following:
“Unelected bureaucrats should not have the unilateral authority to simply decide to enact policy that would imprison citizens for 18 months and fine them 5,000. This is outrageous and will only lead to less social distancing as people panic buy. #copolitics”
The tweet was sent before the governor’s order was announced.
“I do think [the governor] has the power, but for an unelected board to do something like this, we can’t accept that,” Neville said.
Neville was joined by five of his fellow Douglas County Republican lawmakers in sending a letter to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners — asking them to take leave Tri-County Health’s authority.
The signatories on the letter are state Sens. Chris Holbert and Jim Smallwood as well as state Reps. Kim Ransom, Mark Baisley, Kevin Van Winkle and Patrick Neville.
“The reason we have a process is because we actually want things to be well thought out,” Neville said. “I don’t think this [local order] is well thought out.”
But health officials argue the order is necessary to save lives. District Attorney George Brauchler said the order must be followed.
“This public health order carries the force of law — both civil and criminal,” Brauchler said via a social media message.
Even though the law does allow for stiff penalties, law enforcement officials in the three counties don’t plan on arresting scores of people.
“There are fines,” said Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler S. Brown. “There [is] the ability for us to enforce these. That’s not our goal. Our goal is to make sure that people are adhering to the order and that we’re trying to get through this as quick as possible.”
Brauchler said criminal charges will be “a matter of last, last, last resort.”
Before the governor announced his order, Tri-County Health Department said it would prefer consistency across the state as the best way to to defeat the virus.