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Marathon County pauses on ‘police power’ ordinance

Empower Wisconsin | June 12, 2020

By M.D. Kittle 

MADISON — A Marathon County public health ordinance proposal that could include using ankle monitors to keep track of COVID-19 “violators” is on hold — for now. 

On Thursday, the Marathon County Executive Committee sent the measure back to the Health and Human Services Committee, where it is expected to remain for four-to-six weeks, according to Marathon County Supervisor Chris Dickinson. The Wisconsin Counties Association will review the proposal aimed at tracking and containing coronavirus cases, and then make recommendations. 

WCA “has created a work group to review several county ordinances that are in development,” said Dickinson, who lives in Stratford. 

There has been growing suspicion that Gov. Tony Evers power-grabbing Department of Health Services has been helping put together boilerplate ordinances for counties that effectively include the same kind of language DHS used to lock down the state and threaten citizens who dared to use their constitutional rights. 

“I do have concerns about the Counties Association in essence creating a model ordinance and delivering that to all these counties and in essence do the work of the state for the counties, not allowing the counties to do what they should be doing, which is applying state statutes to local communities,” Dickinson told Empower Wisconsin. 

WCA Executive Director Mark O’Connell did not return Empower Wisconsin’s request for comment on Wednesday or Thursday. 

Marathon County Corporation Counsel Scott Corbett and Health Officer Joan Theurer, R.N., MSN, recently told supervisors that the proposed ordinance is not intended to be a “Safer at Home Order,” a reference to Gov. Tony Evers’ lockdown edict struck down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. They took great pains to say the ordinance is “targeted directly” to those who have COVID-19 and businesses and organizations that have workers who test positive for the coronavirus. They say it’s more about communication and education than punishment. 

But the language, according to Corbett, includes several levels of quarantining, including what would in essence be a countywide lockdown banning “large gatherings.” 

“We’re not making people stay at home or shutting businesses,” the attorney said. 

Noncompliance, however, comes with some hefty penalties of “not less than $100 not more than $25,000 per violation.” 

While the officials insist that the county doesn’t have the power to create criminal penalties, the ordinance notes the use of “quarantine guards” with police powers. That includes monitoring of violators. One supervisor in particular sounded excited about the prospects of using ankle bracelets because, “that tells where they are if they’re not at home.”

“So we talked about ankle bracelets for a person who again needs to be quarantined and who might very well violate that order. That could be a possibility,” Corbett said, adding it’s not something the county would do “on the first go-around.” 

The Wausau-area Chamber of Commerce is opposed to the proposed ordinance, which includes fines found in Class F felonies. 

“The heavy-handedness of the fines is a concern” to the chamber, Dickinson said. 

The supervisor said his gut tells him the health and executive committees, which originally unanimously approved the proposal, will eventually pass it again. 

“I think they will leave it to the 38 supervisors to decide,” he said. 

As Empower Wisconsin reported earlier this week , the Marathon County Board of Supervisors earlier this week rejected a similar ordinance, which would include the confiscation of property thought to be contaminated with coronavirus. Scores of angry citizens showed up to the meeting and expressed their opposition to the measure. 

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