OKLAHOMA CITY – Seven months after the coronavirus stifled the economy and social activity throughout Oklahoma – and after Governor Stitt and President Trump were infected with COVID-19 – mask mandates are still generating controversy.
Lawton’s mayor and at least one city council member – and perhaps several others, as well – have been targeted for recall, in part because of a mask ordinance; lawsuits were filed recently in Norman and Tulsa, and lawsuits previously were filed in Guthrie and Tulsa; and a proposed mask mandate in Chickasha was spurned 8-1 by the city council on October 5.
Nineteen Oklahoma municipalities and one military installation have adopted mask ordinances, records indicate.
Oklahoma City extended to December 7 its mask requirement which mandates that an individual must wear a face covering while in any indoor public place. Other metro-area communities, such as The Village, Warr Acres, Nichols Hills, Midwest City, Choctaw, Spencer, Yukon, Edmond and Norman, require masks, too. Masks also are mandated in Altus, Ada, Anadarko, Shawnee, McAlester, Stillwater, Tulsa, and on the Fort Sill Army post. And the Grove City Council mandated masks on city property, starting October 12.
Lawton’s City Council decided Tuesday to defer until January 12 a decision whether to rescind the local order that requires facial covering for anyone while inside a commercial establishment or other public building, structure or space open to the public, and on mass transit such as buses and vans.
The Freedom Defense Alliance (a/k/a SW Oklahoma Freedom Fighters) previously announced its members had targeted Lawton Mayor Stan Booker and Ward 4 Councilman Jay Burk, who is the mayor pro tempore, for ouster, at least in part because of a mask mandate. Recent reports indicate the group may seek to recall the entire council except for one member.
However, the group never responded to one message the Ledger left Sunday and two that were placed Monday.
A SoonerPoll scientific survey of 564 Comanche County voters last month showed that 71.4% of them approved of “mandating the wearing of masks while in public places,” 23.6% disapproved, and 5% were undecided. The poll had a margin of error of ±4.12%.
The ages of the respondents were:
• 18-34: 4.8%
• 35-49: 19.1%
• 50-64: 35.3%
• 65 and older: 40.7%
Pollsters tabulated responses from 238 Democrats, 262 Republicans, 55 registered Independents and nine Libertarians. Of the respondents, 314 were women and 250 were men.
NORMAN MAN FILES LAWSUIT OVER MANDATE
A Norman resident has filed a lawsuit over a mask mandate in that community.
Contractor, landlord and real estate developer Sassan Moghadam sued The City of Norman in Cleveland County District Court over an amended ordinance that requires face masks and social distancing at public and private gatherings of more than 25 people if proper separation cannot be maintained.
Moghadam seeks to prevent the city from enforcing the revised ordinance, which the City Council adopted on September 22, and wants the court to declare it unconstitutional.
The amendment created criminal penalties for anyone who is in possession, control, or is responsible for any premises in Norman and “has a gathering, whether it be a Bible study, book club, a family reunion or a football watch party, that exceeds 25 people if three people in attendance do not wear face coverings,” Moghadam complained in his legal filing.
Moghadam, co-founder of Unite Norman, said he “intends to hold a social gathering at his residence that will exceed 25 individuals, and it is “highly anticipated” that “at least three individuals” outside his control will attend the party but not wear masks. Therefore, Moghadam writes, he will be subject to the criminal provisions of Ordinance 2021-17.
The state Constitution “safeguards a right to privacy of an individual to his home and private property,” Moghadam wrote in his petition.
District Judge Lori Walkley on October 6 rejected Moghadam’s request for a temporary restraining order, until or unless “there is a threat of prosecution...” The same day the City of Norman filed a motion to dismiss the case.
A hearing in the matter is set for 2:30 p.m. November 2 before Judge Walkley, the Oklahoma State Courts Network shows.
FEDERAL LAWSUIT FILED IN TULSA
Tulsa optometrist Robert Zoellner, radio show host Clay Clark, and five other individuals filed suit August 17 in Tulsa’s Northern District federal court against Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, the Tulsa City Council and the Tulsa Department of Health over a mask mandate.
The plaintiffs contend the mandate violates the “equal protection clause” of the U.S. Constitution, violates “due process,” amount to “unreasonable seizure,” is void because of its “vagueness,” violates the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, and is “beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law – the Constitution.”
GUTHRIE LAWSUIT LASTED 8 DAYS
A federal lawsuit filed April 22 against the City of Guthrie, its mayor, city council and police chief, alleging that municipal measures enacted in response to the global spread of the coronavirus violated the constitutional rights of 10 individuals, lasted just eight days.
The plaintiffs included seven Guthrie residents and three individuals who told the court they “visit and/or conduct business in” Guthrie.
The lawsuit arose from a “State of Emergency Declaration” that the Guthrie mayor issued March 16, effective through May 11 “unless terminated or renewed”, and from Ordinance #3330 adopted by the City Council on April 6.
The ordinance directed Guthrie citizens to “shelter in place” and to wear “cloth face coverings”; closed city properties and facilities; suspended organized gatherings of 10 or more people on public or private property, including churches; closed various businesses except those deemed to be “essential”; stressed ‘social distancing’ of at least 6 feet between individuals; etc.
The plaintiffs asserted that the ordinance impeded their free exercise of religion, violated the “commerce clause” of the U.S. Constitution, and was “vague,” “imprecise” and “ambiguous”.
On the morning of April 27, hours before the initial court hearing on the lawsuit was scheduled, the Guthrie City Council held a special meeting and approved Ordinance #3331, which rescinded the mandatory measures imposed in Ordinance #3330.
Municipal officials instead “strongly recommend” that Guthrie citizens and businesses “continue to follow CDC recommendations” on social distancing, wash hands with soap and water, avoid touching one’s face, disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible, “consider” using face coverings while in public and when using mass transit, stay at home as much as possible, and contact a doctor if you feel sick.
Federal Judge Scott Palk in Oklahoma’s U.S. Western District Court dismissed the case April 30. No harm to the plaintiffs was ever demonstrated, the judge ruled.
TULSAN STRUCK OUT IN HIS LAWSUIT AGAINST CITY HALL
Jeffrey A. Dickstein, a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran, sued the City of Tulsa in state district court there July 17 over an ordinance adopted two days earlier that added a new section entitled “Face Covering and Social Distancing during COVID-19 Pandemic Civil Emergency”.
Dickstein asserted that the city’s emergency declaration was unlawful and violated the state Constitution. Before the day was over District Judge William Musseman denied Dickstein’s emergency motion for a temporary restraining order because he failed to provide notice to City Hall.
Dickstein quickly filed a motion for a temporary restraining order against the City of Tulsa, and a hearing was held on July 23. Musseman dismissed that motion on July 31 because Dickstein “failed to demonstrate irreparable injury by clear and convincing evidence.”
A week later Dickstein dismissed his case, claiming it was “perfectly clear neither the City of Tulsa nor the District Court believe there is any reason to 1) obey their oaths to obey the Constitutions of the United States, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma law; 2) protect the people from the fear-mongering being perpetrated by enemies of our American Way of Life...; and 3) protect the people from the false propaganda that wearing a mask will protect them from a non-existent ‘pandemic’...”