City of Selah stands behind COVID-19 proclamation after governor demands retraction

City of Selah

SELAH, Wash. — Earlier this week, the governor’s office asked the City of Selah to rescind a proclamation from the mayor declaring the city’s refusal to enforce the Stay Home, Stay Health order and criticizing the legality of the order itself.

“The governor directs you to immediately retract or rescind the proclamation you issued on May 8, 2020,” said Kathryn Leathers, general counsel for the governor’s office, in a letter sent Monday to Selah Mayor Sherry Raymond.

But when the Selah City Council held a regular meeting Tuesday night, they did not withdraw the proclamation; instead, council members voted unanimously to uphold it and support the mayor’s stance.

The proclamation questions whether Gov. Jay Inslee’s order is constitutional and states that the governor does not have legal authority to force city employees, including police officers, to take action against anyone.

“Those wishing to operate or patronize a business, to conduct or attend religious services, to use park facilities or to take action that was lawful prior to the governor’s proclamations, will not be harassed, punished or investigated by any City of Selah employee,” the proclamation said.

The proclamation has been criticized  as “unlawful” and “misleading” in letters written by Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney Joe Brusic and Leathers, who wrote hers on behalf of the governor’s office.  Both have urged Raymond to withdraw the proclamation.

“Elected officials, such as you and me, are tasked to serve under the laws, not to act above them,” Brusic said in his letter to the mayor. “I sincerely hope that we can arrive at a mutual understanding before actions lead to possible further consequences.”

Leathers said by issuing the proclamation, the city “knowingly and intentionally” violated the governor’s order, as well as state law.

“As an elected official,  you cannot direct city employees to disregard the law and insulate them from state law enforcement,” Leathers said. “In addition, you cannot insulate any resident from state action to enforce state law.”

Additionally, Leathers said the proclamation has exacerbated the confusion of Selah residents and business owners as to what they can and cannot do.

“It encourages Selah residents and business owners, to their detriment, to violate the governor’s order and state law,” Leathers said. “More importantly, your action puts lives at risk.”

In response to those concerns, City Attorney Rob Case issued a statement Wednesday afternoon clarifying the earlier proclamation by the mayor.

The statement notes that the proclamation doesn’t allow businesses to reopen or break any rules set by the governor’s office and further repeats that it will not be rescinded.

At the meeting Tuesday night, Raymond reiterated her belief that the city has done nothing wrong or illegal.

“We are not open for business; we will follow the governor’s rules,” Raymond said. “We’re just saying that we as a city will not come knocking on your doors to see if you are not in compliance.”