|Commissioner Philbeck in white|
But not so fast, Ralph. The county issued a clarifying statement, perhaps written by its county attorney, who's obviously less "Trumpy" than his bosses: “From a function standpoint, Gaston County Government will continue to follow all state laws, including Gov. Cooper’s executive order,” it said. “At no point would county leadership ask its staff or county residents to break the law.”
From a function standpoint.
From a different "function standpoint," Commish Chair Tracey Philbeck obviously likes grandstanding for the cameras as much as Trump does. And he intends to have the last word: “Legally they [the mayors of Gaston Co. municipalities] can’t and we can’t tell someone to break the law in an official government document,” Philbeck said in an interview. “But that’s why we wanted to also make clear that we support your right to work. We’re not going to stand in the way of people who want to work.”
Philbeck told reporters Wednesday that the commissioners’ reopening order position was based on relatively low coronavirus numbers in the county [140 infections with 3 deaths] and the availability of hospital capacity. Reopening, he said, would help save local businesses that have been decimated by Cooper’s “one-size-fits-all” restrictions.
“If we continue the stay-at-home order, it will not have a good effect for Gaston County and we will maybe not have anything to come back to,” he told reporters Wednesday morning during a virtual press conference....
Philbeck told reporters the order he signed allows any business to reopen if they follow social distancing and hygiene protocols.
“We’re giving citizens an opportunity to make a choice,” he said. “The government denied them the opportunity to make a choice.”
Philbeck's "ill-conceived, comically executed and ultimately spineless political stunt" drew condemnation in a Charlotte Observer editorial: "It’s political theater with real consequences. Businesses could endanger public health or risk penalty, all of which doesn’t appear to bother a commission chair who thought he was making a statement, but was really just making a spectacle of himself."