SULLIVAN CO., Tenn. (WJHL)- Law enforcement across the state received a letter from Governor Bill Lee Wednesday night telling them they now have the authority to enforce executive orders 17 and 21 and the ability to use citations as a last resort if businesses don’t comply.
News Channel 11’s Anslee Daniel asked Gov. Lee during his Thursday press conference what people should do if they see a business that is non-essential operating outside of his mandate.
“They should report that to their local law enforcement officials who have been given direction and who have the authority to contact that business and go through the appropriate steps to get them to comply,” Lee said.
In the letter he asked departments to “take reasonable steps” to implement the executive orders an to educate and warn local businesses that aren’t complying with the orders.
“I provided guidance in a guidance letter to local law enforcement with respect to enforcement enforcing previous executive order 17 and 21. According to that guidance, businesses will be given an opportunity to comply with the orders before further enforcement action will be taken,” Lee said.
Anslee also asked Gov. Lee what his advice is to employees at large manufacturing facilities that have hundreds of people working in close confines without safety measures or social distancing options.
He replied, “We certainly hope that companies are creating environments for employees who are working in those essential businesses and where there’s an indication that the safety of those individuals is not available- then they need to contact local law enforcement as well.”
Lee said he wanted to work with companies and keep essential businesses running. He says he has seen great effort from most businesses to ensure the safety of their employees.
“If an employee feels like they’re not in a safe environment for whatever reason they certainly ought to talk to their employer about that and then take appropriate steps otherwise,” Lee said.
But the jurisdiction on how to enforce these orders is up to the individual departments.
“We gave them clear direction that enforcement was appropriate and that it’s something that we expect to happen if companies don’t ultimately comply. So, they will develop their own enforcement specifics in each community. But, they’ve been given the directive to enforce.,” Lee said.
Captain Andy Seabolt at the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office says this is something he hasn’t encountered in his 20 year career with the department.
“We’re not here to disrupt the lives of anyone. We’re here strictly for public safety. In the event that we run across a situation that we need clarification on…common sense goes into play a lot,” Seabolt said about the enforcement procedures. “If someone’s going to the doctor, if someone’s going to the grocery store, we’re certainly not going to intervene in that.”
Executive orders 17 and 21 allow food and drink establishments to offer drive through, carry out or delivery services but require businesses including those but not limited to exercise facilities, those that perform close-contact personal services and entertainment and recreational gathering venues to close.
“A violation of the governor’s executive order would be their violation. We’re not interested in writing people citations… that’s not what we’re here for,” Seabolt said.
Seabolt said that officers won’t be out policing where people are going and the type of business they are conducting, but he says if you are an essential employee- it would be a good idea to ask your employer for paperwork documenting that.