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Federal suit questions governor's power to declare continuous states of emergency, restrict businesses.

PMG FILE PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam announced his formation of an exploratory committee to consider his run for governor on April 14, citing opposition to Gov. Browns handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as reasoning. On May 4, the Oregon Moms Union, Melissa Adams (owner of Gresham's Spud Monkeys) and Heart of Main Street filed a federal lawsuit, challenging the governor's authority to continue to declare executive orders maintaining a state of emergency in Oregon.

After a year of vocal opposition to Gov. Kate Brown's COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam has voiced his support for the legal action.

Pulliam recently announced his consideration for a 2022 run for governor, citing his disappointment in Gov. Brown's handling of the pandemic as part of his reasoning.

This lawsuit came after Clackamas County, along with 14 other counties, were sent back to extreme-risk restrictions temporarily on April 30, closing indoor recreation and indoor dining until capacity for Oregon hospitals improved.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported April 30, that Oregon had the highest rate of new infections and hospitalizations of any state in the nation. Cases of COVID-19 had risen 38% in the previous two weeks, while hospitalizations were up 43%. Nationwide, both were in decline at that time.

Fifteen counties had already exceeded the extreme risk numbers at the very top of the state's four-tier COVID-19 risk chart. But Brown had ordered that the counties would not need to resort to the most severe restrictions as long as the state's hospital system was not overly taxed. She set 300 COVID-19 hospitalizations as the "tripwire" for restoring the ban on indoor dining and strict limits on activities and gatherings.

When hospitalizations hit 339 on Monday, April 26, Brown lifted the moratorium on extreme risk limits, putting 15 counties into extreme risk restrictions Friday, April 30.

On May 5, the OHA announced that its weekly report: "shows decreases in daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the previous week."

The OHA reported 5,557 new cases of COVID-19 during the week of April 26-May 2, representing a 3% decrease from the previous week. That week new COVID-19 related hospitalizations fell to 272 from 333 the week before. Reported COVID-19 related deaths decreased to 16 from 26.

After the decrease in hospitalizations, Clackamas County was allowed to return to high risk on May 7.

Pulliam hosted an event with partners Heart of Main Street, the Oregon Moms Union, and several businesses and individuals at Spud Monkey's in Fairview to announce the legal action Monday, May 3.

Spud Monkeys' owner Melissa Adams is one of numerous business owners who chose to reopen outside of state-mandated restrictions and, according to a statement by Pulliam, was visited by an Oregon Health Authority employee and cited for illegally opening in 2020.

"The constitution provides us specific guarantees of liberty," Pulliam said. "The governor's broadly applied authority continues to be shrouded in opaque rationale, undisclosed science, and arbitrary metrics. After 14 months, it's time to put an end to this and restore our constitutionally protected rights as Americans."

Pulliam says his comments on the state restrictions are made as personal statements that do not "represent the feelings of the collective Sandy City Council or any other organization."

Pulliam and partners have enlisted Portland attorney Ed Trompke, of Jordan Ramis, PC, to file the lawsuit this week.

"The state of emergency was necessary when we didn't know anything about the virus," Pulliam said. "But we now have a vaccine, we understand how it's transmitted and how it's not, and we don't see any discernible difference in outcomes between states that are open and the increasingly few that aren't."

MacKensey Pulliam, the potential Republican gubernatorial candidate's wife, has likewise been a vocal advocate for returning Oregon children to full-time in-person schooling, and she serves as a board member for the Oregon Moms Union.

"Parents should not have to go to court to get their kids back to school," MacKensey said. "We've been given hope time and time again and each time our leaders have broken their promises and failed to get our kids back to school. Parents and kids can wait no longer."

According to a statement from Stan Pulliam: "the discovery process of the lawsuit will force the Governor's Office to produce the scientific data ... forcing Brown to prove why it has been necessary to lock down main street businesses while big-box stores remain open."

"A governor's powers in a state of emergency must be narrowly defined and temporary. Instead, they have been broad and ceaseless. It's clear Governor Brown has no intention of relinquishing this absolute power herself, so we are forced to petition our judiciary branch to do it for her," Pulliam said.

Since filing the lawsuit, the plaintiff parties have also filed restraining orders in an attempt to block continued application of the two executive orders restricting businesses during the pandemic, but they have yet to seea hearing.

Gary A. Warner of Oregon Capital Bureau contributed to this story.


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