Springfield, MO

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Springfield City Council last week approved a masking ordinance, citing rising COVID-19 cases.
SBJ file photo
Springfield City Council last week approved a masking ordinance, citing rising COVID-19 cases.

City faces lawsuit over masking ordinance

Posted online

The city of Springfield is facing litigation over the recently passed face mask ordinance, and attorney and former City Council member Kristi Fulnecky is representing the plaintiff in the case.

A copy of the lawsuit provided to Springfield Business Journal shows plaintiff Rachel Shelton, a resident of the city, is suing the municipality and all council members who voted for the masking ordinance last week. Several dozens of residents spoke in opposition at council's hourslong July 16 meeting, in which members of the governing body cited the spread of COVID-19 cases for passing the ordinance. Councilperson Phyllis Ferguson, who recused herself from the vote, is not named among the defendants in the suit.

“Mandating the public to wear masks is a violation of civil rights and a blatant overreach of the city government,” Fulnecky said in a news release. “My client has a right to choose to wear a mask – whether it’s outside, in her place of business or at church."

The suit seeks an injunction against the masking ordinance that took effect July 16. The litigation alleges "violations of the right to privacy, religious freedom, vagueness and overbreadth, and arbitrariness" and that the ordinance has "deprived (Shelton) of numerous rights and liberties under both the Missouri and U.S. constitutions." Additionally, the suit alleges council did not provide evidence suggesting masks would reduce death rates from COVID-19.

The topic has been divisive among residents. Ahead of council’s vote, City Clerk Anita Cotter said 8,592 forms were submitted online and that nearly 70% of them were in support of the ordinance. Additionally, 3,287 voicemails were submitted to the city, with 56% in opposition, she said. The July 16 council meeting included hours of testimony from roughly 60 residents, with many citing infringements on civil liberties.

Reached this morning, Springfield spokesperson Cora Scott said the city had not been served a lawsuit. The document provided to SBJ indicates the suit is being filed in Greene County Circuit Court, but a court filing had not appeared in the online management system by deadline.

Shelton yesterday set up a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to help pay for legal expenses related to the suit. It had raised $1,135 of its $25,000 goal as of 12:34 p.m.


2 comments on this story |
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William Cox

When I was in high school back in the day, most of us had to take a class called Liberty and Law. It was a basic class about our rights and freedoms guaranteed under the United States Constitution’s Bill of Rights. One of the phrases that I learned that really stuck with me all of these years was, “Your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins.” I find that phrase apropos to the current debate on mandatory masking. “Your right to not wear a mask ends where 6 feet away from me begins.” I am floored by the number of people claiming mandatory masking is a violation of their rights. They obviously have no regard for other people’s rights in their desire not to contract COVID 19.

Thursday, July 23
Paul P

When it’s cold, you wear a coat. When it’s raining, reach for an umbrella. When there’s a pandemic, you wear a mask.

Seriously doubt that your rights have been infringed. You’re still welcome to stay home—maskless—and have your groceries and pharmacy items delivered.

It’s made all the more ludicrous that a former council person is muddying the waters and stirring more debate when what we clearly need is unity.

Thursday, July 23
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