Citizens Rights Under LockDown In Montana
By Tim Ravndal,
With the Covid-19 pandemic across America the citizens are being told everyday to make sure that their safety is a priority. With that, government officials are placing a mandatory LockDown in Montana. When asked why, they are claiming this is a necessary step to ensure that public safety is their number one job.
Here in Montana Governor Steve Bullock issued a pair of Executive Orders in response to the national declaration of an emergency. In those Executive Orders the emergency declaration in Montana supports the decision to provide the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Department to “Issue written orders for corrections.”
The opening of the notice to “All Montanans” that action is under the authority of Montana law Governor Bullock’s declaration lacks Constitutional mention of the people’s rights.
“Section 10-3-104(2)(a), MCA, authorizes the Governor, during a state of emergency, to “suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business or orders or rules of any state agency if the strict compliance with the provisions of any statute, order, or rule would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency or disaster.” Further, it authorizes the Governor to “control ingress and egress to and from an incident or emergency or disaster area, the movement of persons within the area, and the occupancy of premises within the area.” Section 10-3-104(2)(c), MCA.
Montana’s public health laws also authorize the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS or Department), acting under the Governor’s direction, to “issue written orders for correction” of “conditions of public health importance,” to “prevent and mitigate conditions of public health importance” through measures including “isolation and quarantine” and “abatement of public health nuisances.” Section 50-1-202, MCA. The Department, under the Governor’s direction, may also take action to correct public health deficiencies in “buildings or facilities where people congregate.” Section 50-1-203, MCA.
The Department, under the Governor’s direction, is also authorized to impose quarantine and isolation measures to protect public health. Section 50-1-204, MCA. Montana law provides that these authorities will be utilized to respond to an “outbreak of disease,” § 10-3-103(4), MCA, and to “limit the transmission of the communicable disease.” See, e.g., § 50-1-101(6), MCA.”
As we read through the executive order we further find another layer of the impact on the people of Montana. The Governor’s LockDown provides exceptions for the operation of government agencies.
At the end of the Executive Order, a standard exclusion clause was added. “If any provision of this Directive or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid by any court of competent jurisdiction, this invalidity does not affect any other provision or application of this Directive, which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application. To achieve this purpose, the provisions of this Directive are declared to be severable.” Severability certainly protects the government from claims of harm from the public.
In his rationale provided in his LockDown Implementing Executive Orders 2-2020 and 3-2020 Governor Bullock states; “Providing measures to stay at home and designating certain essential functions Accordingly, for the preservation of public health and safety throughout the entire State of Montana, to protect those most at-risk, and to avoid overwhelming our health care delivery system, I have determined that additional measures consistent with public health guidance are necessary to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19.”
This LockDown went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on March 28, 2020and was scheduled to end on April 10, 2020. Governor Bullock extended the LockDown to April 24th. “These extensions include my stay at home order, school closures, on-premises dining and beverage operations, eviction and foreclosure suspensions and service disconnections and the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for travelers coming into Montana” ~ Governor Steve Bullock
Where citizens look further into the executive order, there are sections or services that did not make the list of exceptions under the executive order. Because they are not listed as exemptions those in the health care industry are negatively impacted and cannot provide certain services. Doctor Annie Bukacek Gave this analysis of the “Lock Down” “Analyzing the lockdown’s impact from a medical standpoint: we will never recover the ability to give senior citizens what they need. Joint replacements, cataract surgery and other quality of life saving surgeries have been delayed, and there will not be enough hours in the day to catch up. Seniors, especially, will suffer with this acceleration of rationing of care. Taking into consideration delayed surgeries, radiologic and lab testing…inability for patients to see their medical PCPs and specialists…the increased domestic violence, suicide, and homicide that comes with increased unemployment…the malnourishment of those who didn’t have the time or ability to hoard food and now face food shortages…There is no question in my mind, the cost of this lockdown to people’s physical and emotional health FAR outweighs any cost from the virus.”
If we look across Montana there are areas that are certainly needing a closer look. For example, we found that in Granite County, the County Commissioners put up signs that placed “LockDown notice” to all traffic into Granite County. At the Commission meeting on Tuesday April 7th 2020, the commissioners revealed that the Montana Department of Transportation received complaints about the signs being placed in the highway right-of-way. Commissioners proclaimed they had the authority to place those signs under the emergency resolution adopted.
In Granite County we asked how the 14 day mandatory quarantine order on all travel into the county would be enforced. The commissioners stated that Sheriff Scott Dunkerson is in full support of the resolution adopted by the commission. Sheriff Dunkerson was not available for comment. We attempted to get a picture of the sign next to the highway coming into Granite County but we were unable to locate one. They may have been taken down by citizens or removed by the officials of the county.
We visited the official homepage of the Granite County Sheriff’s Department. Here is the message from Sheriff Dunkerson posted there. “The mission of the Granite County Sheriff’s Office is to preserve the peace, enforce the law with respect to the constitutional rights of every person, prevent and detect crime and protect life and property”
We sent the following message to Sheriff Scott of Granite County but it was undeliverable.
We listened in on the Granite County Commission meeting this past Tuesday. In that meeting the commission discussed the action taken regarding the emergency order declared by Governor Bullock. In Granite County, in research I was able to find as of this morning, there is no cases of Covid-19 in Granite County. Two of the responsible officials with the county and electronically participated in the meeting declared that they are under a voluntary quarantine. No rationale or reason was given for that decision.
Because there are many citizens across Montana fully supporting provisions for safety in reaction to the pandemic there are many concerns about the rights of the people. We asked the commissioners during the electronic meeting what your position is on this action taken by the commission. Because it is your duty as an elected official we thought it only proper to get that on public record for the citizens of Montana. Because there are signs coming into Granite County declaring a mandatory 14 day quarantine It is certainly an enforcement concern.
Constitutionally the rights of the people have been called into question here and we would like to hear from you on this at your earliest convenience. ~ Redoubt News-Montana
Another jurisdiction that raises questions of this action by all branches of government here in Montana took place in Kalispell Montana. There the city council held a meeting using electronic means for public participation but declared actions that enforce LockDown ignoring full public participation provisions protected under Montana law.
Across the divide in Broadwater County provisions of the emergency declaration were also discussed at their regularly scheduled business. meeting. As Redoubt News-Montana has been covering these meetings, the ability to cover the meeting for the public was denied based on a Letter Of Advice from Montana Attorney General Tim Fox.
We were met at the door of the Broadwater County courthouse by Commissioner Darrel Folkvord on Monday. Reporter Tim Ravndal asked for admission to the meeting to cover the proceedings for the people. Commissioner Folkvord stated that admission was not allowed based on the directives from Attorney General Tim Fox.
If we go back to the emergency Executive Orders, we look at the exemptions to the “LockDown” order. In that document the media is declared an essential part of the public safety directive and declared exempt from “LockDown”. Under the Executive Orders and the Montana Attorney General letter of advice, the 1st Amendment of the Constitution protecting the “Freedom of the Press” is protected. This also falls under the citizens rights also found under the First Amendment. Unfortunately access to all public meetings are being denied.
In the meeting held by Broadwater County Commissioners, action was taken with only electronic public participation allowed. Decisions were made by the commission without recognizing public comment at all or until the decision was final. Several Montana statutes were violated in this meeting.
In that part of the meeting, commissioners again violated Montana law by hiring through contract an employee that quit to afford administrative manipulation of policy. This action was made by two of the sitting commissioners part of development of a sweetheart contract between the past public works director and the commission excluding the public.
Broadwater County Commission Candidate Ross Johnson stated; “What we seen yesterday was a complete failure by our commission to represent the people of Broadwater County. Darrell Folkford did all he could do to stop or at least delay the vote on a contract for a Public Works Director. He heard the people the other two commissioners ignored them.”
Here is a short video summary of the impact seen here in Broadwater County Montana.
Each jurisdiction here in Montana is working hard to adapt to the declaration of the pandemic disaster. In that declaration of an emergency each jurisdiction is afforded additional emergency funding from multiple sources. Will the citizens of Montana be able to restore their God given rights or is this the beginning of Martial Law? Stay tuned to Redoubt News-Montana for more on this as we continue to seek the truth.
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