Huntersville mayor questions legality of county’s indoor mask mandate

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Huntersville’s mayor is questioning the legality of Mecklenburg County’s indoor mask mandate.

Mayor John Aneralla said residents there are not in favor of requiring masks again and sent a letter to the county Board of Commissioners.

>> Read the letter here.

Anarella said the new public health rule fails to give adequate context as to why the restrictions are needed across Mecklenburg County.

He asked for more data and information on how commissioners came to their decision.

“The state is not mandating,” Anarella told Channel 9 Thursday. “They are recommending you wear masks but also the CDC is not mandating that you where masks. They are recommending so there are some hurdles that the county needs to provide that I feel they need to provide to not only me or the town of Huntersville, but all our citizens.”

[Everything you need to know about Mecklenburg County’s indoor mask mandate]

County commissioners approved the new public health rule last week. It forces all cities and towns in the county to mandate masks in indoor public places, businesses or establishments -- regardless of vaccination status.

The mandate is already in effect in Charlotte, Davidson, Matthews and unincorporated parts of the county. It is set to take effect in the rest of the county on Tuesday.

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The county said anyone who chooses not to follow the order could face criminal charges, though there are some exemptions to the mask mandate.

On Thursday, Channel 9 obtained the following statement from Chairman George Dunlap in response:

“The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, in their role as the Mecklenburg County Board of Health, acted within its authority under G.S. 130A-39 to enact a public health rule requiring face coverings indoors to protect the public health. The rule covers all of Mecklenburg County, including the City of Charlotte and the six towns. It goes into effect for all indoor spaces starting Tuesday, August 31. Below is the legal justification for the Board’s action, which we hope will slow the spread of COVID in our community.”

Background for G.S. 130A-39: Local Board of Health Rules

A local board of health has the authority to adopt rules that are necessary to protect and promote public health within its jurisdiction in accordance with G.S. 130A-39. There are some statutory limitations to the authority. For example, a board of health is prohibited from making rules pertaining to the grading, operating, and permitting of restaurants. A local board of health contemplating rulemaking should also take into account the test set out in City of Roanoke Rapids v. Peedin and, in adopting a rule that is “more stringent” than a statewide rule, the ruling in Craig v. County of Chatham. A local board of health rule is valid throughout the county or counties of the board of health’s jurisdiction, including within municipal limits. If a local board of health rule is violated, the violator may be charged with a misdemeanor under G.S. 130A-25, or the local health director may seek injunctive relief under G.S. 130A-18. There is no authority to impose administrative penalties (fines) upon those who violate local rules related to face coverings. See G.S. 130A-22. Also, board of health rules should not invoke the separate legal authority of a local health director to order abatement of an imminent hazard under G.S. 130A-20 or abatement of a public health nuisance under G.S. 130A-19.

(WATCH BELOW: Mecklenburg leaders vote to implement countywide indoor mask mandate)