Franklin County Commissioner defends walking out of meeting after ‘unlawful conduct’

Aug 25, 2021, 5:33 PM
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A digital highway sign promotes COVID-19 vaccination in Vancouver, Washington. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
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A commissioners meeting Tuesday in Franklin County got into a bit of a controversy over mask wearing. After fellow Commissioner Clint Didier refused to wear a mask, Commissioner Brad Peck decided to walk out, though he says it was not only Didier that was the problem.

What you need to know about Washington’s new mask mandate 

“It was not Commissioner Didier alone that was the issue,” Peck clarified to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “Currently, Commissioner Didier serves as the chair of our board, and he took to Facebook the day before with an open video message encouraging, enticing, and I think it’s even fair to say pleading with constituents to come to the meeting in the board room inside the public courthouse and specifically to do so without masks, in violation of state law.”

“And I would say an estimated 40-50 people took him up on his offer and showed up without masks,” Peck added. “And that creates a number of issues, legal and ethical.”

As far as a legal issue, Shawn Sant, a Franklin County prosecutor, made the point that if you don’t comport with state law, the meeting doesn’t count as official business.

“First question is, is in fact the governor’s mandate or proclamation law, or does it at least have the force of law? … To my knowledge, [that] has been tested some 30 times in the state courts. And so far, again, to my knowledge, the score is zero and 30, the courts have upheld resoundingly that it does have the force of law.”

If someone in elected office, such as Peck, assumes that’s the case, then he says he finds himself in a meeting with people who are openly violating the law.

He also says elected officials are not allowed to recruit people to come into a public meeting and violate the law.

“There are several statutes that are clearly on point and one of them makes it unlawful for an elected official to go out and to actively recruit people to come into the courthouse or a public meeting like that and violate the law. To do so willingly and knowingly is a violation of law,” Peck said.

“If one accepts — and I realize many people do not — if one accepts the premise that the proclamation has the effect of law and is equivalent to law, and in fact may be law under our statutes, then the activities that were conducted were unlawful,” he said. “So when we asked the question is the mandate lawful? Is it law, does it have the force and effect of law, then where do we look for that answer? We look to the courts. Until the law is deemed to be unconstitutional, it is deemed constitutional.”

Peck also pointed out that he’s a relatively right-wing, conservative, four-term county commissioner, and retired military officer.

“But to me, the law comes first. And people can have their opinions, but until you take it to court and a court with appropriate jurisdiction deems that it’s not lawful, I’m obligated as a public servant and elected official to take it as law,” he said. “And that being the case, what transpired yesterday was unlawful conduct. It was aided and abetted and enticed and encouraged by a sitting public official. And then it was seconded and supported by a second commissioner.”

“I simply chose not to take part in an unlawful meeting for a number of reasons. But the simple short list is I have a duty as an elected official to support the constitution and laws of the state of Washington, plain and simple,” he said. “And if I don’t think that I can be there in that meeting and fulfill my oath, I’m going to leave, and I did.”

The other part, he says, is that he views civil disobedience as still breaking the law.

“So as long as that’s how it’s going to take place, I’m going to choose not to participate,” he said. “I would much rather be on my side of this issue should this end up in court somewhere than on the side of people who are knowingly and willfully violating the law.”

“And again, you can argue that a mandate isn’t law. Show me a court that agrees with that, I’ll change my position right now,” he said. “My understanding is the tally is zero and 30.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Franklin County Commissioner defends walking out of meeting after ‘unlawful conduct’