The Pima County Board of Supervisors on Thursday approved a final version of regulations aimed at restaurants reopening but not without a warning from one member who said they are ignoring “the 500-pound gorilla in the room.”
Thursday’s emergency meeting was called to approve the fourth version of a proclamation that originally laid out 17 regulations but now is down to 15. Of those, 13 will temporarily become part of County Health Code, which applies to every restaurant in Pima County.
Thursday’s meeting began with restaurant owners seeking modifications to the latest proclamation, though supervisors largely stuck with what had been agreed upon Tuesday.
They did away with measures requiring reservations and decided restaurants don’t need to post cleaning logs online every two to three hours, along with other minor changes.
Supervisor Steve Christy persisted in his opposition to the regulations, saying all of the writing and rewriting is of questionable value with a possible state investigation hanging over the county’s head.
“Until we get a determination from the state attorney general, all of this means nothing,” he said.
State Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office, at the urging of three state legislators, last week requested a written response from Pima County addressing the allegations.
The legislators — Sen. Vince Leach and Reps. Mark Finchem and Bret Roberts, all from District 11 north of Tucson — said the county violated Gov. Doug Ducey’s May 16 Executive Order by imposing additional requirements on businesses to open beyond state guidelines.
If Pima County is found in violation, it would have 30 days to resolve the issue or lose state-shared revenue, according to a letter from Brnovich.
Pima County asked for an extension of the deadline and has until 2 p.m. Friday to get its response to the state Attorney General’s Office.
Christy, who voted against the overhauled proclamation along with Supervisor Ally Miller, said Brnovich would be justified in finding the county in violation of the Executive Order.
“I believe it is imperative that this board cease and desist in trying to come up with its own regulations until that determination by the state attorney general is made,” he said.
Supervisors Sharon Bronson, Betty Villegas and Chairman Ramon Valadez voted in favor of the proclamation.
Valadez sent a letter to Ducey’s office dated May 12 giving the governor a heads up that the board was likely to approve additional measures governing the reopening of restaurants on May 13. Valadez said business owners and the public wanted more specific direction than the state offered.
The brief letter lays out the county’s argument for going beyond state guidelines, telling Ducey, “We appreciate your general guidance but business owners and the public have asked for specific measures.”
The letter was copied to County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, mayors and officials from Tucson, South Tucson, Marana, Sahuarita and Oro Valley, but not to any members of the Board of Supervisors.
Christy took exception to that on Thursday, asking Valadez during the meeting why they weren’t included.
“That was an oversight on my part, I apologize for it,” Valadez said. “I should have done it. I didn’t do it.”
Ducey’s Executive Order, announced May 12 and which took effect May 16, states in part that “no county, city or town may make or issue any order, rule or regulation that conflicts with or is in addition to the policy, directives or intent of this Executive Order…”
On Wednesday, Ducey gave a clue as to how the state views Pima County’s action when asked about it at his weekly press conference.
“The guidance that the CDC and White House have given the state of Arizona was that we could go county by county or statewide,” Ducey told a reporter. “The guidance that we have put out is statewide, and that’s what we expect municipalities to follow. Those are the guidelines.”