PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Both the Attorney General of Oregon and the Oregon City Commission upbraided Mayor Dan Holladay after his comments last week that Oregon City businesses should re-open.

In a letter sent to Holladay on Friday, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum minced no words in letting him know Governor Kate Brown has the legal authority to issue an executive order during a health emergency and that the AG’s Office “will take legal action, civil or criminal” in order to protect the public.

Read AG Ellen Rosenblum’s letter at the bottom of this article
Watch: Oregon City Commissioners special session, April 26, 2020

Oregon City Mayor Dan Holladay, April 27, 2020 (KOIN)

Holladay described Rosenblum’s letter as a “nastygram.” He told KOIN 6 News he hadn’t made any decisions or even wrote notes when he discussed re-opening with the mayors of other cities and said the attorney general’s letter was unnecessary.

“We could have had a conversation and I could have explained my thinking and said that I have come to a decision and would wait and see,” Holladay said. “Maybe it was a shot across the bow to anyone else in the state who is considering doing something different.”

Holladay’s announcement he would issue a declaration that all Oregon City businesses could re-open drew the swift rebuke from Rosenblum and, in a special Sunday session, the Oregon City Commission.

Ellen Rosenblum_220994
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (KOIN, file)

“I understand that you plan to issue a declaration that allows all businesses in Oregon City
to re-open, even though this would contravene Governor Kate Brown’s “Stay at Home, Save
Lives” Executive Order (20-12),” Rosenblum wrote. “I further understand that your declaration would be based on a mistaken belief that the governor lacked the legal authority to issue this executive order. I send this letter in the hope that you will reconsider your approach without the need for more formal action. I remind you that there are significant legal repercussions for violating the governor’s order.”

On Sunday, the commissioners unanimously agreed the city will follow Brown’s executive order until it’s “lifted as part of a comprehensive plan to reopen the economy in coordination with Federal, State, and Local agencies and that at no time did the City Commission consider issuing a directive to open businesses or facilities within the City in defiance of the Governor’s Executive Orders.”

Brown’s office shares draft of plan to re-open Oregon

They also clarified that Mayor Holladay is just one member of the commission “and a single member of the Commission does not have the legal authority to enact policy or give directives without the approval of a majority of the Commission members.”

Commissioners said they’ll consider a small business debt relief grant program in a Monday session that could provide up to $3000 in grant funding to eligible businesses.

Sandy mayor: Re-open with social distancing protocols

Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam said it’s time to allow not just rural communities but those just outside the Portland metro to re-open with social distancing precautions.

“I’m calling on the governor to review the timeline and move it up,” Pulliam told KOIN 6 News. “Nobody wants to spread this disease but the truth is that this statewide closure was never going to be the longterm cure for the disease. It was to allow the hospital system to catch up, our manufacturing industry to provide additional equipment and then to open back up our local economies. And what you are seeing a lot of us local mayors are saying now is the time.”

Rosenblum made it crystal clear on Friday to Oregon City Mayor Holladay:

Closing certain businesses to stem the spread of COVID-19 clearly protects the public’s
health and safety during the ongoing global pandemic. The governor’s order is lawful, and that order remains in full force and effect. You do not have the authority to override the governor’s executive order. Violating this or any executive order issued under the governor’s emergency powers can lead to criminal penalties under ORS 401.990, and civil penalties under ORS 431A.010. So, in addition to putting your residents’ health at risk, you may be placing them in legal jeopardy.”

Holladay added calls and emails over the past few days to his office have been running 4-1 in favor of re-opening.