Executive orders raise legal concerns as non-essential businesses forced to close
TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton issued executive orders that closed non-essential businesses and mandated city residents to shelter in place.
The actions were the latest measures from the mayor in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
But a local attorney said the executive orders could mean big legal troubles for the city.
The phones at City Hall were busy as residents, business owners and workers wanted to know if they were impacted by the Mayor’s Executive Orders.
On Saturday, an auction at the Tupelo Furniture Market prompted Mayor Jason Shelton to issue an executive order, limiting the size of public gatherings.
Before his executive order, Mayor Shelton encouraged people to follow CDC recommendations, limiting the size of crowds.
“It really increased public awareness that the recommendations, already in place at that time were not being followed, it showed as a city we had to take mandatory action,” Mayor Shelton said.
That’s what happened later in the day, when an executive order from Mayor Shelton ordered non-essential businesses to close, and a shelter in place order was imposed on Tupelo residents, except for necessary travel.
Jim Waide is a trial lawyer who has concerns over the executive orders.
Waide said by forcing businesses to shut down, without providing compensation, the city was violating the US Constitution.
“No business can be interrupted, stopped , taken over by the government, except by paying just compensation, it’s been applied in most extreme cases, started out in Civil War when federal government would take ships from private owners to use in the war, US Supreme Court said that’s unconstitutional, it cannot be done,” Waide said.
The executive orders were hammered out during meetings and conference calls with city council members, staff and the city attorney.
The city’s legal counsel said extreme measures were needed to hopefully stem the rise in cases of the coronavirus.
“We swell to a population of about 80,000 every day here in Tupelo, not all those people are our residents, we are the hub of the region and this thing, you can’t do nothing, have to start somewhere and we’re doing that day by day,” said City Attorney Ben Logan.
The current executive order is in place through midnight Sunday. It could be extended, depending on the number of cases in the area and state.
City leaders are meeting daily getting input from business owners and others impacted by the executive orders.
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