Who will en­force first phase of DeSan­tis’ re­open­ing or­der?

Gov­er­nor lim­its restau­rant, re­tail ca­pac­ity to 25%

Orlando Sentinel - - Nation & World - By Jeff Weiner and Grace Toohey Staff writ­ers Stephen Hu­dak and Tess Sheets con­trib­uted.

Gov. Ron DeSan­tis’ plan to re­open Florida will al­low restau­rants and re­tail­ers to serve cus­tomers next week if they keep ca­pac­ity be­low 25%. Non­com­pli­ance could mean a sec­ond-de­gree mis­de­meanor, pun­ish­able by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

But it is un­clear who will en­sure that busi­nesses fol­low the rules. State and lo­cal of­fi­cials have given con­flict­ing ex­pla­na­tions, the lat­est ex­am­ple of a dis­con­nect be­tween the gov­er­nor’s of­fice and city and county gov­ern­ments.

In an FAQ re­leased late Wed­nes­day, the gov­er­nor’s of­fice gave a con­cise an­swer to a ques­tion Florid­i­ans might have be­fore re­turn­ing to shops and restau­rants as soon as Mon­day: How is the or­der en­forced?

“By law en­force­ment,” the FAQ said. “Vi­o­la­tion of the Gov­er­nor’s Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der is a sec­ond-de­gree mis­de­meanor.”

The next ques­tion: “Where can I re­port a busi­ness that vi­o­lates the Gov­er­nor’s Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der?”

The an­swer: “Lo­cal law en­force­ment.”

But Orange County of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the Sher­iff ’s Of­fice and Mayor Jerry Dem­ings, said they ex­pect the state’s Depart­ment of Busi­ness and Pro­fes­sional Reg­u­la­tion to en­force DeSan­tis’ or­der.

Dem­ings said at a press con­fer­ence Thurs­day morn­ing that lo­cal cops “in some cases may be pulled into the en­force­ment ac­tiv­i­ties.”

“But gen­er­ally speak­ing, those broad di­rec­tives that the gov­er­nor put out, they are state agen­cies that are re­spon­si­ble for the en­force­ment,” Dem­ings said.

He added that en­force­ment could in­volve any­thing from a DBPR or Depart­ment of Health in­spec­tor go­ing to check out a busi­ness.

“It could look like if there’s a com­plaint filed, lo­cal law en­force­ment may go in and gather in­for­ma­tion about it to see if there is com­pli­ance with the law it­self,” he said. “It’ll be mul­ti­ple en­ti­ties that will have that reg­u­la­tory author­ity to en­force the pro­vi­sions of the gov­er­nor’s di­rec­tive.”

The re­gion’s big­gest po­lice agency had a sim­i­lar mes­sage Thurs­day.

“If you see a busi­ness that is not in com­pli­ance with @GovRonDeSa­n­tis ex­ec­u­tive or­der … please re­port that to @Flori­daDBPR,” the Orange County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice said in a post on Twit­ter.

The state reg­u­la­tory agency, which li­censes busi­nesses rang­ing from sa­lons to ve­teri­nary of­fices and real es­tate agents, but which lacks ar­rest author­ity, retweeted the law en­force­ment agency’s post. The DBPR has a form on its web­site where peo­ple can re­port ex­ec­u­tive or­der vi­o­la­tions.

The statewide agency has about 1,600 staff. The Orange Sher­iff’s Of­fice alone em­ploys roughly as many deputies.

And while DeSan­tis’ FAQ three times pointed to po­lice as en­forc­ing his or­der, the or­der it­self said the DBPR “shall uti­lize its au­thor­i­ties un­der Florida law to im­ple­ment and en­force the pro­vi­sions of this or­der as ap­pro­pri­ate,” while also not­ing that vi­o­la­tions are a crim­i­nal of­fense.

Michelle Guido, a spokes­woman for Orange Sher­iff John Mina, cited the lan­guage from the DeSan­tis or­der in ex­plain­ing that OCSO “has no plan to proac­tively go into restau­rants or other places of busi­ness to mon­i­tor whether they are fol­low­ing the guide­lines.”

“Of course, peo­ple can al­ways call law en­force­ment. We will re­spond to calls when peo­ple have con­cerns, as we have been while the stay at home or­der has been in ef­fect,” she added. “In most cases, deputies have been able to speak with peo­ple and get them into com­pli­ance.”

Bob Keal­ing, a spokesman for the Semi­nole County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, said there are “some on­go­ing dis­cus­sions” about DeSan­tis’ or­der.

“Gen­er­ally speak­ing, we would an­tic­i­pate re­spond­ing as we have to other calls from cit­i­zens con­cerned about ca­pac­ity and/or so­cial dis­tanc­ing,” he said. “We will con­tinue to em­pha­size ed­u­ca­tion and trust that our lo­cal busi­ness peo­ple will make a good faith ef­fort to com­ply with the Gov­er­nor’s plan.”

The Or­lando Po­lice Depart­ment is also en­cour­ag­ing res­i­dents to re­port vi­o­la­tions of the gov­er­nor’s or­der to the DBPR, spokes­woman Au­tumn Jones said.

“The Or­lando Po­lice Depart­ment is cur­rently re­view­ing the ex­ec­u­tive or­der with its le­gal ad­vi­sors, Orange County, and other agen­cies to de­ter­mine what other en­force­ment ac­tion is ad­vised,” she added.

Kel­ley Teague, Orange County’s di­rec­tor of leg­isla­tive af­fairs, told Dem­ings’ Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery Task Force on Thurs­day that state and lo­cal law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties would be re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing sure busi­nesses fol­low the rules, in­clud­ing sharply lim­it­ing the num­ber of pa­trons in­side a restau­rant or store.

Teague told the Busi­ness Com­pli­ance & Con­sumer Con­fi­dence work­ing group that state agen­cies could also be in­volved, in­clud­ing the DBPR and health depart­ment in each county, which in­spects restau­rants and other busi­ness for com­pli­ance with san­i­tary health codes.

A mem­ber of that group, OCSO Ma­jor Robert Anzueto, said deputies ex­pect to field a lot of cit­i­zen com­plaints about com­pli­ance is­sues and will pro­vide a web link to lodge a com­plaint with state reg­u­lat­ing au­thor­i­ties.

“Please un­der­stand it’s not go­ing to be a high pri­or­ity of ours,” he said.

Even as DeSan­tis’ re­open­ing plan is set to be­gin in days, lo­cal gov­ern­ments are still hash­ing out their own plans, in­clud­ing the po­ten­tial to tack on ad­di­tional re­quire­ments for re­open­ing lo­cal busi­nesses, such as a man­date that em­ploy­ees wear face masks or have their tem­per­a­tures taken.

Dem­ings and Or­lando Mayor Buddy Dyer, both Democrats, have said at pub­lic brief­ings that nei­ther of them has heard di­rectly from DeSan­tis, a Repub­li­can, dur­ing the pan­demic, de­spite Or­lando mak­ing up a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the state’s econ­omy.

Prior to DeSan­tis’ an­nounce­ment, Orange County’s Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery Task Force had been dis­cussing a plan to al­low most busi­nesses — in­clud­ing theme parks — to re­open at 50% ca­pac­ity in the first phase. Dem­ings had also ex­pressed a de­sire to start that process later than May 11.

COURTESY

Restau­rants and re­tail stores will be al­lowed to re­open Mon­day at 25% ca­pac­ity, Gov. Ron DeSan­tis re­vealed Wed­nes­day, as he an­nounced the first phase of the re­open­ing of the state in the midst of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

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