Huntersville mayor questions legality of Mecklenburg County mask mandate

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HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla held a press conference Thursday afternoon to address his recent letter to Mecklenburg County Chairman George Dunlap. In the letter, Aneralla questioned the legality of a Public Health Rule that would mandate masks in all Mecklenburg County municipalities starting Aug. 31.

Aneralla stated he plans to comply with the mandate when it goes into effect, but questions whether the county appropriately used its power to require all municipalities to follow it.

“This is not about how I or how the town feels about masks,” said Aneralla. “This is really about whether the county appropriately circumvented a process that we’ve been using for the last 17 months during this State of Emergency.”

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Aneralla said the Town of Huntersville has always followed the guidance of North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, rather than Mecklenburg County. He said the county has previously not had any problem with their choice, but this recent Public Health Rule would not allow Huntersville to opt-out.

“Why this time are you using this rule, which hasn’t been used very often? Why are you using it now, and have you met all the criteria that allows you to do that?,” asked Aneralla.

In a statement sent to FOX46, Mecklenburg County Chairman George Dunlap said: “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.”

The rest of Dunlap’s statement said:

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.


City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County will require all schools, public and private, to wear masks indoors

Aneralla acknowledged the county does in fact have the right to enact such a rule, but wondered why they wouldn’t consult the mayors or provide evidence as to why the mandate was necessary for Mecklenburg County specifically.

“What conditions here in Mecklenburg County are worse than the rest of the state?” he asked.

When FOX46’s Sydney Heiberger spoke to Aneralla last week, he said he hoped to get other Mecklenburg County mayors to sign on. His signature is the only one on the letter. In Thursday’s press conference, he said he believed other mayors were afraid of possible retribution from the county commission if they signed on to the letter.

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