Roosevelt sheriff vows he won't enforce governor mandates
Sheriff asks business owners to open 'discreetly.'
April 29, 2020
PORTALES — The Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office on Monday said via its Facebook page it won’t enforce public health orders that have closed many small businesses.
The post also encouraged business owners to “Keep doors closed and locked and limit your patrons in numbers.
“We support your rights to open your business but ask that if you do, you do so discreetly and responsibly.”
It also states the sheriff’s office won’t enforce “any mandates set by MLG or the NM Dept. of Health!,” in reference to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s public health orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Tuesday, the Facebook post had been removed from the sheriff’s page.
Sheriff Malin Parker provided The News with a statement and declined further comment: “I am not encouraging nor discouraging people to open or close their business. I am simply trying to let people know that I stand behind their constitutional and God-given rights to run their business and support their families under the same mandates set by the governor to big-box stores.”
Under the public health order, the New Mexico State Police is the only agency with an enforcement requirement. Public Information Officer Lt. Mark Soriano said the NMSP “will continue to respond to complaints on nonessential businesses being open.”
Tuesday morning, most downtown Portales businesses appeared to be operating no differently, with restaurants open only for curbside or patio service and other businesses with lights out, doors locked and signs either noting they were closed or handling matters by appointment.
Buz Goodson, owner of Bar G Western Wear, was one of the latter. Signs on the door of Bar G, which has operated on Second Street since 1995, indicated the business was open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays either with curbside service or by appointment. However, Goodson was there Tuesday morning for an appointment with a longtime customer. He allowed The News inside during the appointment.
“I think Malin’s doing all he can,” Goodson said as he folded the brim of a light-colored straw hat. “I think his hands are tied.”
Goodson noted personal letters and a letter sent by Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales to Santa Fe hadn’t done any good so far, and he felt to make a difference, “we need to get rid of this (expletive) crazy governor.”
Nora Meyers Sackett, the governor’s press secretary, said elected officials who “disregard live-saving public health orders” are “putting the health of the communities at risk, which is deeply disappointing and troubling.”
She continued, in an email:
“Nothing about the public health order changes just because the sheriff is choosing to ignore the importance of saving lives. Any non-essential business that opens in violation of the public health order, which carries full legal weight, could incur legal consequences.”
Meyers Sackett said there are both civil and criminal penalties for violating the governor’s orders.
Upon receiving a report, Soriano said, the NMSP makes in-person contact and educates the business owner or manager on the public health order and issues a notice of first violation and cease and desist letter. A second violation leads to a citation to the business owner or manager, and any following violation results in advising the Department of Health of noncompliance.
No businesses in Roosevelt or Curry counties have reached a second violation, Soriano said on Tuesday.
Goodson confirmed he had received an NMSP visit and a cease and desist letter, but said the two officers that came were polite and he harbored no ill will toward them. Goodson, who first opened his store 46 years ago a few blocks away on Main Street, thinks he deserves the right to face his accuser, since the NMSP only visits when someone reports a violation.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether any Roosevelt County businesses closed would be opening before the governor’s order expires on May 15.
“I don’t have any comment on this particular tactic,” Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Karl Terry said in response to the sheriff’s department post. “We definitely support getting our businesses open and we’re working several avenues to accomplish that.”
Curry County Sheriff Wesley Waller, when asked if he planned a similar announcement, said from the start his office’s role has only been to educate when necessary.
“The New Mexico State Police were charged with enforcement of the order, and are only doing so when complaints are received,” Waller said. “I am very much in support of our community returning to normal in a safe and productive manner.”