Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry has issued two memos clarifying the procedure for reporting, and penalties associated with, violations of the mask-wearing ordinance the Board of Supervisors passed June 19.
Repeated violation could result in criminal misdemeanor or civil penalties including fines either through the courts or through the Pima County Health Department.
Huckleberry said the county is “very unlikely” to cite individuals for violating the ordinance and is focused on “businesses and other entities that have the potential for generating many infections in a short amount of time.”
An individual filing a complaint will be asked to provide their name, contact information and details of the violation. A health department employee will follow up with the person and determine if the complaint is valid, a memo said.
If the complaint is found to be valid the first level of any enforcement will be to educate and advise the business. The health department will send the business a notification letter that includes the ordinance, its requirements and requests compliance. At that point the business could request a hearing, according to the memos.
If the health department continues to receive complaints against the business it can take the next step of issuing a compliance order.
“If we choose to pursue prosecution against such an entity, it will only be after it is clear there has been no attempt to meet any of the board approved regulations regarding COVID-19,” Huckelberry said.
“Flagrant repeat offenders” will trigger a discussion of civil enforcement with the board and may result in stiff penalties such as the health department making a recommendation to another governing body that issues permits or licenses to the offending business. Pending board approval, the health department can fine businesses up to $5,000.
Criminal enforcement may be pursued in the event the health department finds violations by a business result in numerous infections including hospitalizations. If violation results in death, criminal enforcement will be requested from the board.
Huckleberry also clarified in a memo that the county adopted the ordinance under public health authority.
“It was not enacted under our ‘catch-all’ ordinance authority (A.R.S 11-251.05) or emergency authority (A.R.S. 26-311).
“As with other public-health regulations, including our food code and pool code...authority applies countywide without the necessity of municipal adoption; whereas the emergency authority only applies to unincorporated areas.”
The memo said the ordinance applies in Marana and Sahuarita but any enforcement action in the towns will be brought to the attention of town officials who will be given an opportunity to object to the proposed action.
If they object, it will be up to the board on how to proceed.