WASHINGTON Co., PA (KDKA) – Four counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania are banding together to get answers from the state.
Now one, Washington County, has already voted to file a lawsuit against the governor and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine.
“This is about the third generation Italian restaurant here in Washington County that fears they will go out of business,” said Nick Sherman, who is a Washington County Commissioner.
Washington County commissioners voted Wednesday to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court. Sherman tells KDKA they believe their constituents First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated.
It’s a similar story across the region, especially for Pittsburgh’s surrounding counties.
“Our main concern approaching week six of non-essential businesses being closed is the livelihood of these family sized businesses,” said Mike Belding, who is a Greene County Commissioner.
Right now, Greene, Fayette, Washington and Butler Counties are still in the red zone with seemingly no end in sight.
“It’s hard to prepare and equip a county during a pandemic when your information is limited by what you hear for the first time during a public press conference that the Governor holds,” said Butler County Commissioner Kim Geyer.
- Coronavirus In Pennsylvania: Protesters Gather Outside State Capitol, Demanding Gov. Tom Wolf Reopens The Economy
- Coronavirus In Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf Announces Plan For Gradually Reopening Economy Using ‘Data-Driven’ And ‘Regional’ Approach
- Coronavirus In Pennsylvania: Businesses Required To Deny Entry To Customers Without Masks\
- Coronavirus Closures: Gov. Tom Wolf Likely To Veto Bill To Reopen Pa. Businesses
- Coronavirus In Pennsylvania: State Health Officials Implement Worker Safety Measures, Including Mask Requirement For All Employees
- Coronavirus In Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf Asks Residents To Be Patient, Says There’s No Set Date For Relaxing Stay-At-Home Order
These local leaders said the lack of communication is the problem.
“Each time a decision is made and you aren’t included in that, the level of frustration goes up just a little bit,” Belding said.
On Tuesday evening, leaders of the four counties sent a letter to the Governor demanding that they have a voice in what’s happening in their areas.
Butler County commissioners initiated the partnership since the Governor’s reopening plan is region-based. Fayette County Commissioner Scott Dunn said as one coalition, they may get more answers.
“Counties came together since we were told we would be treated as a group. So we are responding as a group, but we all have differing levels of needs, some rural and some urban and suburban,” Dunn said.
In that letter, the counties threatened legal action if they stayed in the red zone with no communication.
“A majority of my county from citizens, business owners, organizations and even government leaders have set aside politics and are unified in concern for the upholding of the Constitution. Legal action as a last resort is mentioned,” Dunn said.
Washington County leaders were the first to move forward with a suit, but Geyer tells KDKA their meeting to vote will likely take place on Thursday.
“We don’t find pleasure in doing this, but we feel we have no choice,” Geyer said.
Not all commissioners in each of these counties believe legal action is the right avenue.
“I want to get business opened as much as we can, as safe as we can. I don’t want to fling the doors open and hope for the best either. There must be a method to open. The failure to date has been the communication we all so desperately need,” said Butler County Commissioner Kevin Boozel.
Boozel tells KDKA the county leaders should wait to see what the Governor has to say before moving forward.
“Our pressure has been effective and I believe it has worked. I wouldn’t want to spend literally hundreds of dollars an hour in legal fees on a case that isn’t likely to be heard. Let’s pause through Friday and consider the outcomes of our hard work as a community,” Boozel said.
Each county needs a majority vote from their Board of Commissioners to join the suit.
KDKA asked Beaver County commissioners if they would join the lawsuit. Commissioner Chairman Daniel Camp said they do not have plans to join.