Mark Baldwin, (center) council member, said he was not wearing a mask as an act of civil disobedience and compared it to Rosa Parks, civil rights icon. All other council members present wore masks: Tory Roberts is seated, left, and Todd Winters, right. Rich Melton, member, was absent. Photo courtesy of Albert Rukwaro
Special to The Gardner News
Councilmember Mark Baldwin said his refusal to wear a mask during a council meeting July 20 was an act of civil disobedience and compared it to the actions of civil rights icon Rosa Parks.
Talking to The Gardner News after the meeting, Baldwin said he did not believe the mask mandate issued by Governor Laura Kelly was constitutional.
Baldwin was the only councilmember who did not wear a mask during the meeting. Every staff member and public in attendance also wore a mask. Rich Melton, council member, was absent.
“It’s an act of civil disobedience, like Rosa Parks. I believe the mandate will eventually be found to be unconstitutional,” he said adding that he hoped people would see his action as a matter of personal choice.
When asked whether he could be setting the wrong example by defying the mandate and the advice of public health officials during a national health emergency, Baldwin said he hoped people would understand he was exercising his rights as an individual.
“I have had the flu, the common cold, even malaria but I have never had to wear a mask for any of that. I don’t think I should be forced to wear one now,” he said adding that he was doing other things to protect himself and others including social distancing and constantly washing his hands.
During the meeting, Randy Gregorcyck, council member, took Steve Shute, mayor, to task for an alleged failure of communication during a recent spat between local leaders and the state after a local motel was contracted by the state to quarantine Covid-19 patients.
“On July 8 I learned the motel had been set up for Covid-19, which I don’t have a problem with, but there was little to no communication from the mayor or the city administration. I called and learned that the mayor knew about it beforehand. The sheriff and county commissioner Mike Brown issued statements and yet we did not get a clarifying statement from the mayor,” he said.
Shute said he got the information from Rob Kirk, Johnson County fire chief, at 10 a.m. on July 8 and that the sherriff was also unaware about the arrangement.
“None of us had any knowledge about it, and I wasn’t going to give a statement without the full information. We didn’t know how many people were there and also there were HIPPA concerns,” Shute said.
“Could there have been better communication? Yes. We could always do better. We were caught flat footed on this one. We understand there were communication lapses but we are working on it,” he said.
During the meeting:
– the council tabled a motion to consider an ordinance amending provisions of a chapter of the municipal codes relating to the inflow and infiltration of fats, oils and grease discharge from local restaurants after the councilmembers could not agree on the necessity to add a fee to help offset the costs of implementing the ordinance.
City staff had proposed adding a $250 annual permitting fee which Ryan Denk, city attorney, said was a reflection of the cost of performing inspections to ensure compliance.
-The council rejected a $77,000 proposal to contract with Gardner Disposal Inc for the annual city-wide cleanup service.