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Jan. 8, 2021 (Moscow, Idaho) — The City of Moscow Legal Department has asked the Court to dismiss misdemeanor charges issued on Sep. 23, 2020, to five individuals for violations of Amended Public Health Emergency Order 20-03 and resisting and obstructing justice.
Moscow City Code (MCC) Title 1, Chapter 11 provides the Mayor's authority to issue public health emergency orders. It provides default exemptions for all emergency orders, stating that, "Unless otherwise specifically prohibited by a Public Health Emergency Order," any and all expressive and associative activity that is protected by the United States and Idaho Constitutions, including speech, press, assembly, and/or religious activity is exempt.
Amended Public Health Emergency Order 20-03 states that the Order applies to "every person in the City of Moscow," but does not specifically provide that the Order applies to any and all expressive and associative activity that is protected by the United States and Idaho Constitutions, including speech, press, assembly, and/or religious activity. As the cited individuals' actions could be argued to be included as such expressive and associative activities, The City of Moscow Legal Department has moved the Court to dismiss the citations.
"Navigating unprecedented circumstances has been the hallmark of 2020 and continues into 2021," said City Supervisor Gary J. Riedner. "The omission by City staff to include the specific language to include the expressive and associative activities is unfortunate and has resulted in confusion. The Mayor and City Council intended that Amended Public Health Emergency Order 20-03 apply to all persons in the City, regardless of the nature of activities. I apologize for the staff's role in that confusion; however, I am proud of the City Attorney's office for discovering the omission, and dismissal of the citations is the right thing to do."
City Attorney Mia Bautista confirmed that Amended Public Health Emergency Order 20-03 is effective and valid for all activities not exempt by MCC 1-11-07. "The decision to dismiss these charges in no way impacts the validity of Amended Public Health Emergency Order 20-03 or its application to activities that are not exempted by MCC 1-11-07. The Legal Department and Moscow Police Department will continue to investigate and prosecute violations of Emergency Order 20-03 and any violations of future emergency orders and prosecute violations of the mandatory provisions of Idaho Governor Brad Little's Stage 2 Order," said Bautista. "In addition, the Mayor and City Council have directed that staff prepare recommended amendments to Moscow City Code to address these issues."
The Administrative Committee of the City Council will consider those recommendations to MCC Title 1, Chapter 11 at its upcoming meeting scheduled for Jan. 11 at 4 pm. The full City Council will then consider any recommendations at its regular meeting scheduled for Jan. 19 at 7 pm.
Story Contact: Gary J. Riedner, City SupervisorPhone: 208-883-7006Email: email@example.com