WENATCHEE – In the Cuevas vs. Inslee lawsuit case, a group of the plaintiffs in Chelan and Douglas counties want to know where the local health district stands on the conflict between them and the state. The plaintiffs believe local management of the pandemic to be transferred to the local health district.
The lead plaintiff of the lawsuit is Jose Luis Cuevas, who owns an insurance business in Chelan County, and his wife Maria, who owns a beauty salon. They contend the stay-home proclamation devastated their businesses and asked that the proclamation not apply to Chelan County. Dozens of other people are also listed as plaintiffs.
Over the weekend, the group of plaintiffs issued the following letter to the Chelan-Douglas Health District Board of Health:
As taxpayers, citizens of Chelan and Douglas Counties, and plaintiffs in the Jose Cuevas vs. Inslee case, we are writing with a request for your help. We are requesting that you make known your position as the Board of Health (BOH) whether you support Governor Jay Inslee continuing to direct all COVID 19 regulations for our counties, or whether you support existing state law, which legally places this authority with the local BOH.
Forty-six citizens of Chelan and Douglas Counties have challenged Governor Inslee’s emergency proclamations that continue to override the authority of local government. Inslee’s justification for the emergency proclamation was to mitigate the risks of overrunning hospitals during the pandemic. By every metric and model, that emergency has passed both locally and statewide.
Our non-monetary claim against the state is simple. With no current threat as listed in his original proclamation, the Governor’s emergency powers must be rescinded and local authority restored.
Our goal is simple. We want to return legal authority for managing the COVID 19 response to our local BOH as empowered by existing state law. To be absolutely clear, this lawsuit is not a medical statement about COVID 19. It is a legal challenge to the authority of the Governor to make up laws and override established statutes.
We believe the law is clear. Locally elected officials are to lead a pandemic response. In essence, we are fighting for YOUR legal right to lead us. From the outset, the State Attorney General has used a number of legal maneuvers to keep our case from being heard. We believe that is because our case is legally sound and would hold up under judicial scrutiny. Two courts have noted this fact and indicated their leaning to rule in our favor.
If we win the challenge, the Governor’s restrictions would be lifted from Chelan and Douglas Counties, and you would be allowed to lead our community’s reopening plan in whatever way you deem best . This has been our singular goal from the start. We believe that local leadership is best equipped to meet the unique needs of our local communities.
Here is our challenge. Multiple times the court has indicated its need for assurance that, were the court to rule in our favor, the BOH would take immediate steps to lead and protect the citizens of Chelan and Douglas Counties.
We need to know that you are willing and able to lead the local COVID 19 response. If so, we ask that you make known your intent to lead our counties in ways that are specifically geared to local conditions, local employers, and local needs. We need to demonstrate that our local BOH will lead in a manner that results in a more positive change than what we are currently experiencing with Governor Inslee’s “broad brush” phases, which feel arbitrary, punitive, and detrimental to our community.
We have heard multiple times that the BOH has no desire to engage in a lawsuit. That is understandable. We are not asking you to support it. We are simply asking for the BOH to respond to the court’s question. The court has asked us to get this confirmation from the BOH.
This is why we, as citizens of Chelan and Douglas Counties, are coming to you. Your response could be presented several ways. It could be producing a plan that is less restrictive than what we’re currently under, but in line with current metrics you believe to be responsible. It could be a declaration to the court stating your willingness and readiness to lead were your legal rights restored. Again, the court wants assurance the BOH is ready with a plan.
We are simply asking if you would be willing to respond to that request and demonstrate your eagerness to fulfill your duties on behalf of our counties. Silence on this matter is a statement to the court that you are unwilling or unable to lead. If the BOH does not answer the court’s question, the court will take your silence into account and may rule against the local citizens because it believes you are not capable or ready to lead our counties. We do not believe this to be accurate, but it will be the default position of the court if they do not hear directly from you.
The current numbers of deaths, hospitalizations, and positive cases are well within the numerical parameters of the original Chelan-Douglas Health District’s Pandemic Response Plan. This tells us we can have confidence that you have the capacity to lead us.
If you are unwilling to lead our counties, we would ask that you explicitly state that. Our citizens deserve to know if their BOH, and its appointed officers, are up to the task of fulfilling their responsibilities. We would like an answer either way.
Our next hearing is Wednesday, June 24, 2020. If we could have a response from the BOH by Monday, June 22, 2020 that would be most appreciated. We realize the window is short, but we’ve been waiting two weeks for a response from the BOH to the court and are now simply out of time. Lives are being negatively impacted on a daily basis and we believe you can lead our counties better than the state.
Thank you in advance for your consideration and time sensitive response.
Citizens of Chelan and Douglas Counties as identified
Adam James – Chelan – Pastor – Grace City Church
Blaine Johnson – Chelan – Auto sales
Caleb Weber – Douglas – Technology – Pulse PRM
Cary Condotta – Chelan – Politics & News – NCW Life
Chad Sangster – Chelan – Auto sales – Sangster Motors
Chris Quinn – Douglas – Real Estate
Christina Horner – Chelan – Restaurateur – Post Office Saloon
Duane Marker – Chelan – Retail – Doghouse Motor Sports
Gregg Smith – Chelan – Construction – Smith Excavation
Heather Carlson – Chelan – Trauma Care
Heidi Forchemer Chelan Restaurateur Steakhouse
Jackie Johnson – Chelan – Business
Jeff Guentzel – Chelan – Health Fitness – Anytime Fitness
Jeff Kurpuis – Chelan – Retail/Real Estate – Orchard Corset
John Divis – Douglas – Dentist – Wenatchee Dental Arts
Josh Hamilton – Chelan – Information Technology
Josh McPherson – Chelan – Pastor – Grace City Church
Kaala Knell – Chelan – Marketing
Kent McMullen – Chelan – Pastor – Grace City Church
Larry King – Chelan – Real Estate
Marcy Collins – Chelan – Retail – Collins Fashions
Mario Johnson – Chelan – Construction
Mark Stoddard – Chelan – Real Estate
Matt Fluegge – Chelan – Dentist – Fluegge Dental Studio
Megan Johnson – Chelan – Finance
Michelle McCormick – Chelan – Nonprofit
Norris Williams – Chelan – Coaching & Consulting
Pat Armstrong – Chelan – Auto sales – Pat Armstrong Ford
Rachelle Johnson – Chelan – Health Fitness – Inner Circle Gym
Sandy Arellano – Douglas – Hairstylist
Shirley Stoddard – Chelan – Real Estate
Shon Smith – Chelan – Restaurateur – Wok About Grill
Travis Hofstetter – Chelan – Construction – Pinnacle Construction
Wayne Loranger – Chelan – Real Estate