TAWAS CITY – Citing their attorney’s legal opinion, the Iosco County Board of Commissioners, during their committee of the whole meeting, passed on conducting any action on the proposed Bill of Rights ordinance given to the county by the Iosco County Republicans for potential adoption.

During the Oct. 6 meeting, Iosco County Clerk Nancy Huebel brought up the ordinance again under old business at the meeting, and said the item had been sent to the county’s legal council for review.

“They have issued an opinion, however the opinion is confidential attorney/client privilege,” she said. “Unless the board votes, and the majority of the board votes to make that public, it will remain confidential.”

Chairman Jay O’Farrell asked whether any of the five-member board of commissioners would like to entertain a motion to make the attorney’s opinion public, which would potentially move any approval or adoption process further on to the regular Iosco County Board of Commissioners meeting.

“At this point of time I’d like to entertain a motion from any board member who would like to go forward on this,” O’Farrell said. “I’d be careful in taking a position on the Bill of Rights with the information we received from our legal council, if anyone wants to make a motion on this I’ll entertain it, if not, I’ll move on.”

Members of the board were mute after O’Farrell talked, however, and the motion effectively died at the meeting.

“With no movement on this we’ll move on to the next thing in the agenda,” O’Farrell said.

As far as the origins of the proposed Bill of Rights ordinance, the Board of Commissioners were presented with the document during its Sept. 1 meeting from Iosco County Republican Party Chairman David Chandler.

Commissioners, before adopting the document and working through a process which would make it a county ordinance – which would ultimately only be one of a few on the county books – opted to have county legal council look at the document.

During the September meeting, Chandler said the ordinance would ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates and face mask mandates in Iosco County, among other things. He claimed that the reason for the document is that government entities or private business did not have the right to mandate that residents get COVID-19 vaccines because of laws cited in the ordinance and because of the Bill of Rights, which are the first 10 amendments in the constitutions.

Under the proposed ordinance, county law enforcement would have legal recourse to go after departments or citizens who do not follow the rules of the ordinance or the laws cited, including the 9th Amendment.

Although the ordinance does not specifically state that it is to ban mask or vaccine mandates, Chandler specifically said in his presentation that the ordinance was for that purpose.

He also urged the county to use resources, pooled with other county’s resources, to take portions of the government to court over vaccine mandates and other things.

After learning the news that the board would apparently let any action on the Bill of Rights ordinance die, Chandler – who has been attending meetings since he proposed the ordinance – was irate that commissioners did not a pass the ordinance whole cloth. He commented on the board’s inaction, raising his voice angrily, during a public comment section of the meeting.

He stated that the public should know what the county’s attorney discussed because the attorney was paid for with taxpayer funding, and essentially the public is the “client.”

“There should be some transparency here so we can provide some kind of solution to this,” Chandler said. “If there is some wording in this document that we can fix then we should be able to have a look at it and fix it.”

Chandler alleged that grave consequences would arise if the document was not adopted by the county government.

“We are all associates, we all live in this county, we are all going to suffer when the federal government comes down like the attorney general just did and said to ‘investigate parents at school board meetings or city council meetings’,” Chandler said. “They are going to come down here and investigate our parents because, what are you guys going to do about it? What is the sheriff going to do about it? Are you going to sit on your hands and allow them to do this in our county? I certainly hope not!”

Chandler further alleged that board members, including the sworn in Commissioner Jame Minor who was just sworn in earlier in the meeting, were breaking an oath to the constitution to protect it.

You gave us no choice now, and this is on you now,” Chandler said. “The Iosco County Republicans provided you guys with a God-honest solution to a problem, and it really says nothing more than ‘We’re going to enforce the laws on the books, and send notice to the state.’”

During public comments, a second person discussed their feelings with the ordinance and the boards inaction, claiming they would use the Freedom of Information Act in an attempt to find out any information, and alleged that the county’s legal council was “hiding something” or had ulterior motivations other than advising the county on legal matters. 

“If the lawyer is hiding behind something I’d like to know what it is,” they asked. “Did he swear an oath to the constitution? What is his motivation? Who is in control here?”

They also claimed the ordinance was a huge part of their life currently, as well as society’s and not having it pass was devastating.

“This is the most important issue we face today,” they said. “This ordinance issue is the biggest issue, I as a landowner, I as a father, I as a taxpayer, I as a human being, am facing today. I pay your salary – or whatever it is you collect from being on this board – and if it takes me filing a FOIA, that is what it will come down to that is what I’ll do.”

O’Farrell said not acting on the ordinance was just falling in line with the county’s attorney’s recommendation to keep the county out of legal trouble.

“The consensus was to have our legal council look at it, and they said to stay away from it,” O’Farrell said. “So that is what we are doing, unless a commissioner decides to make a motion on it.”

He said it was not the first time an outside party, or special interest group, has tried to advise the county to pass a supplied document, and the county has passed on doing so for one reason or another.

“We have these types of situations where they want us to take a position. It’s like if you remember a few months ago to take a position on Line 5 issue, we decided that we were not going to take a position, we just decided to let it die without any motion,” he said. “On the Bill of Rights document, we decided we would have our legal council look at it. The county pays for that, the Republican party doesn’t pay for that. The Democratic party doesn’t pay for that, the Iosco County pays for that, and the attorney advised us not to take a position either way on that, so that is what we are doing.”

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