Sheriff in Washington county says he won’t enforce the state’s ‘unconstitutional’ stay-at-home order

The sheriff of Snohomish county in Washington state says he will not enforce the statewide stay-at-home order because he believes it is unconstitutional. 

Sheriff Adam Fortney posted a lengthy Facebook message condemning the harsh lockdown measures on Tuesday night following a press conference by Washington governor Jay Inslee.

Here is the text of the sheriff’s Facebook post:

Sheriff Adam Fortney (Facebook photo)

Snohomish County Residents and Business Owners,

I just watched the Governor’s speech to Washingtonian’s regarding our approach to getting Washington back in business and I am left to wonder if he even has a plan? To be quite honest I wasn’t even sure what he was trying to say half of the time. He has no plan. He has no details. This simply is not good enough in times when we have taken such drastic measures as the suspension of constitutional rights. I wrote most of this about two weeks ago but I decided to wait out of respect for the Governor and my own misguided hope that each day he did a press conference he would say something with some specificity on getting Washington back to work. After what I witnessed tonight I can no longer stay silent as I’m not even sure he knows what he is doing or knows what struggles Washingtonian’s face right now.

I want to start by saying this virus is very real and sadly, it has taken 97 lives in Snohomish County. This is a very serious issue and the appropriate precautions need to be taken to protect our most vulnerable populations. However, our communities have already shown and continue to show they understand the severity of the situation and are doing all they can already to keep themselves, their families and neighbors safe and healthy.

I am worried about the economy and I am worried about Washingtonian’s that need to make a living for their family. As more data floods in week by week and day by day about this pandemic I think it is clear that the “models” have not been entirely accurate. While that is okay, we cannot continue down the same path we have been on if the government reaction does not fit the data or even worse, the same government reaction makes our situation worse.

As elected leaders I think we should be questioning the Governor when it makes sense to do so. Are pot shops really essential or did he allow them to stay in business because of the government taxes received from them? That seems like a reasonable question. If pot shops are essential, then why aren’t gun shops essential? Our Governor has told us that private building/construction must stop as it is not essential, but government construction is okay to continue. So let me get this right, according to the Governor if you are employed or contracted by the government to build government things you can still make a living for your family in spite of any health risk. If you are a construction worker in the private sector you cannot make a living and support your family because the health risk is too high. This contradiction is not okay and in my opinion is bordering on unethical.

As I arrive to work at the courthouse, I see landscapers show up each day to install new landscape and maintain our flowerbeds. How has Governor Inslee deemed this essential work? However, a father who owns a construction company and works alone while outdoors is not allowed to run his business to make a living to provide for his wife and children? How has Governor Inslee deemed thousands of Boeing employees who work inside a factory building airplanes essential? But building residential homes is not essential? If a factory with 20,000+ employees each day can implement safe practices to conduct normal business operations, I am entirely confident that our small business owners and independent contractors are more than capable of doing the same.

If this Coronavirus is so lethal and we have shut down our roaring economy to save lives, then it should be all or nothing. The government should not be picking winners or losers when it comes to being able to make an income for your family. If the virus is so lethal it shouldn’t matter whether you are building a school for the government, building a new housing development, restaurant owner, or you happen to be an independent contractor. To the contrary, if the virus is proving to not be as lethal as we thought, maybe it’s time for a balanced and reasonable approach to safely get our economy moving again and allowing small businesses to once again provide an income for their families and save their businesses. This is what I hoped for from the Governor tonight but he is not prepared or ready to make these decisions. If we are going to allow government contractors and pot shops to continue to make a living for their families, then it is time to open up this freedom for other small business owners who are comfortable operating in the current climate. This is the great thing about freedom. If you are worried about getting sick you have the freedom to choose to stay home. If you need to make a living for your family and are comfortable doing so, you should have the freedom to do so.

As I have previously stated, I have not carried out any enforcement for the current a stay-at-home order. As this order has continued on for well over a month now and a majority of our residents cannot return to work to provide for their families, I have received a lot of outreach from concerned members of our community asking if Governor Inslee’s order is a violation of our constitutional rights.

As your Snohomish County Sheriff, yes I believe that preventing business owners to operate their businesses and provide for their families intrudes on our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am greatly concerned for our small business owners and single-income families who have lost their primary source of income needed for survival.

As your elected Sheriff I will always put your constitutional rights above politics or popular opinion. We have the right to peaceably assemble. We have the right to keep and bear arms. We have the right to attend church service of any denomination. The impacts of COVID 19 no longer warrant the suspension of our constitutional rights.

Along with other elected Sheriffs around our state, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing an order preventing religious freedoms or constitutional rights. I strongly encourage each of you to reach out and contact your councilmembers, local leaders and state representatives to demand we allow businesses to begin reopening and allow our residents, all of them, to return to work if they choose to do so.

The great thing about Snohomish County government is we have all worked very well together during this crisis. I’m not saying we agree all of the time, I’m saying we have the talent and ability to get this done for Snohomish County! This is not a time to blindly follow, this is a time to lead the way.

Sheriff Adam Fortney

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