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Judge assigned to lawsuit challenging Boone County COVID-19 restrictions

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

A judge was assigned Tuesday to a lawsuit filed by a business owner seeking to overturn local COVID-19-related restrictions.

Judge Jodie Asel assigned Judge Brouck Jacobs to the case after the first judge, Jeff Harris, was recused from the case and the presiding judge, Kevin Crane, was recused from assigning a new judge.

Paul Prevo and his business, Tiger Tots, sued county health department director Stephanie Browning on Monday, asking a judge to end local COVID-19 reopening restrictions that are more strict that those issued statewide.

Prevo is asking for a temporary restraining order or an injunction. He is asking a judge to put a stop to the local order, either permanently or while the lawsuit plays out, claiming the county's health department director does not have the authority to restrict healthy residents' movement or order businesses to close.

Prevo contends Browning is violating local and state laws and the U.S. Constitution with the order. The local order differs from the state order by ordering certain types of businesses to remain closed and by imposing occupancy limits on all businesses based on their size.

“The County won't be commenting on this pending litigation,” CJ Dykhouse, Boone County counselor, wrote in an email when asked for comment about the suit.

Edward Baker, Holiday Inn Executive Center said he initially brought the group of Boone County business owners together as many businesses were struggling due to the reopen order made by Stephanie Browning the Columbia and Boone County health director. 

Baker said he took part in paying for the injunction lawsuit against Browning but he has also tried contacting state elected officials to help as well. 

“It's a multi-approach," Baker said. "It's not just one is trying different things. I think it's the governor needs to be investigated and overrule it.

Baker said there's no reason for Boone County to be treated more harshly than other cities or counties.

“I think we should be treated fairly in the same as the counties around us that are in the same position," Baker said. "That's the big thing is that we're overriding the, the governor's directive, without cause. I mean if if we had, you know, thousand cases in this market is one thing but we don't.”

Baker said he’s hopeful that the elected state officials are looking into this and trying to fix it as he believes the reopen order is putting Boone County businesses at a huge disadvantage.

A city spokesman said the City of Columbia does not discuss pending litigation. 

Prevo and his attorney, Matt Woods, were not immediately available Tuesday.

Check back for more on this developing story or watch ABC 17 News at 5 and 6.

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Amber Tabeling

Amber Tabeling

Amber joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in December 2019. She was a student-athlete at Parkland College and Missouri Valley College. She hails from a small town in Illinois.

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