COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
City and county officials failed to meet with a group of local business owners opposed to local COVID-19 reopening regulations by a Friday deadline, a group member said.
Paul Prevo, the owner of Tiger Tots child care centers, said in a statement that he felt spurned by Columbia and Boone County officials.
"Obviously we are disappointed that the city, county and health department could not find time to speak, to hear our concerns," Prevo wrote in an email. "We made every effort in good faith to accommodate their schedules. Unfortunately they could not be bothered to return our phone calls. So now we have to consider further legal actions."
Attorneys Matt Woods and Thad Mulholland sent a letter dated Tuesday to Columbia/Boone County Health Department director Stephanie Browning, Columbia Mayor Brian Treece and Boone County Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill on behalf of about 30 businesses calling themselves the Open Columbia Coalition.
In the letter Woods and Mulholland questioned whether state law allowed local health department directors to issue orders to contain pandemics that are more strict than state orders. The letter also says Browning's reopening order, which went into effect Monday, defies the U.S. Constitution.
The group asked for a meeting by the end of the day Friday, but Prevo said the meeting never happened. He said the group will meet this weekend to talk about legal options.
City Attorney Nancy Thompson said the Truman Day holiday Friday made it difficult to get a meeting together. Thompson said the city is hoping for a meeting next week. She said she could not comment on the substance of the group's legal argument because Woods has threatened a lawsuit.
Browning also cited the threat of a lawsuit in giving ABC 17 News limited comments on Wednesday. However, Browning said the state's reopening order establishes only minimum requirements. County health directors have the power to add to those restrictions, she said.
The ease with which COVID-19 spreads, lack of vaccine and its danger to some people means such restrictions are necessary, Browning wrote in an email.
"The reopening of our economy is a gradual and deliberate process to ensure the public health of our community remains safe," Browning said.
Browning has cited Columbia's status as a regional health care destination as a reason for the increased regulation -- something that brought criticism from the business group.
"Because the pandemic is known to spread by human to human contact and uncontrolled spread places unmanageable stressors on the healthcare resources, it would be irresponsible of me as the local health authority to not take into account the demands placed upon our community by the surrounding counties," Browning wrote.