Johnson County Board of Supervisors implements unenforceable county-wide mask mandate

: Following Iowa City, the Board of Supervisors has implemented a mandate requiring face coverings across the county, though the board doesn’t have the authority to enforce the measure.


Megan Nagorzanski

Johnson County Board of Supervisors vote on the second reading of the Unified Development Ordinance at the Johnson County Treasurer office on Thursday December 12, 2019.

Rylee Wilson, News Editor

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted to implement a county-wide mask mandate at a meeting Thursday morning, though the order is not enforceable by criminal or civil punishment.

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague implemented a similar resolution on July 21, with violation of the order punishable as a simple misdemeanor.

Johnson County attorney Janet Lyness said the board doesn’t have the authority to enforce the resolution.

“The authority of cities is different than the authority of counties. Mayors have different authorities than the county does,” Lyness said. “For you to pass a resolution saying that people should wear face coverings does not have the enforcement that something that a city might do in an emergency like this. It does not make it a simple misdemeanor — it is basically unenforceable.”

Lyness said the best path to obtaining an enforceable ordinance would be for the Johnson County Board of Health to pass a resolution requiring masks, which could then be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

The text of the resolution says the order is “not intended to be punitive or stigmatizing and is in the best interest of health, safety, and economic recovery.”

The resolution follows similar language to the resolution passed in Iowa City, requiring residents to wear masks or face coverings in a public place where keeping a six-foot distance from others is impossible.

Supervisor Lisa Green-Douglas said the resolution should pass even if it is unenforceable.

“If we sit around and wait, it’s not going to happen. We need to take some kind of action. We already know that our ability to enforce it is slim-to-none,” Green-Douglas said. “We already know without the attorney general’s office, this doesn’t hold enforcement abilities or the level of a mandate. I still think we need to have a resolution.”

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