Fond du Lac County leaders develop task force to discuss reopening businesses amid coronavirus pandemic

By: Sarah Razner, For USA TODAY NETWORK -- FOND DU LAC - Local officials have created a task force to discuss developing a plan to allow businesses and religious centers to reopen, while balancing the county’s economic and public health needs in the midst of the coronavirus.

On Monday, Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney announced the formation of a task force centered on reopening businesses in the county and addressing the constitutionality of Gov. Tony Evers’ safer at home order.

Since the order was put in place, Toney and local law enforcement have discussed its constitutionality, a determination which he said “must be made by the judicial branch,” according to a press release from the district attorney’s office.

While recognizing the “tragedy” the coronavirus has caused for people throughout the community and state, Toney said he, too, recognizes the “devastation” the order has caused “for families, businesses, religious groups and the massive loss of jobs within our community,” according to the release.

The pandemic could last months, he said, but as the county and state “move forward,” people should consider that the safety needs of those in Fond du Lac County “will not always align” with other counties, such as Milwaukee County, Toney said.

For this reason, the county must have a “common sense and responsible plan” which would balance allowing the reopening religious centers and businesses, as well as “public health obligations, economic needs and constitutional protections,” according to the release.

Looking for clarity on these issues, as well as to reduce the number of criminal charges from public health violations, Toney has begun discussions with county leaders to create this plan, and develop a task force of elected officials, public health officials, business community leaders and law enforcement.

For this task force, Toney has met with Fond du Lac County Executive Allen Buechel, City of Fond du Lac Manager Joe Moore, Fond du Lac County Public Health Officer Kim Mueller, incoming President/ CEO of Envision Greater Fond du Lac Sadie Parafiniuk, Sheriff Ryan Waldschmidt, City of Fond du Lac Police Chief William Lamb, the office of Congressman Glenn Grothman, Senator Dan Feyen, Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, County Board Supervisor Sam Kaufman and City Councilman Daniel Degner.

Other members are expected to join, he said.

“My hope is the Task Force will develop a science-based plan using concrete metrics, supported by our local public health officer, to allow families to reunite, businesses and religious centers to reopen in Fond du Lac County, while at the same time ensuring public health needs and constitutional safeguards are protected. Working together, I am confident we will accomplish this mission,” Toney said in the release.

Fond du Lac County officials are not the only leaders questioning the order’s constitutionality. On Saturday, Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt addressed the Safer at Home order in his monthly column, saying he has questioned the order’s constitutionality since it began and when voicing his concerns, felt he “was not taken seriously.”

Because of his concerns, he told his staff to contact him before closing a business or arresting people who may violate the order “to evaluate each incident individually to ensure no constitutional rights were infringed upon by actions of the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office.”

He has not received any phone calls, he said, and the only enforcement actions taken are those which followed “other egregious criminal activity.”

Schmidt said he would do all he could to protect Dodge County residents from the coronavirus, as well as orders which may be unconstitutional. He hoped that lawsuits filed against the order will make the governor reconsider the extension, and allow for the economy to reopen, he said. 

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