Prairie Village, Leawood will allow JoCo to enforce COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, mass gatherings

Prairie Village and Leawood are joining Overland Park to be the first cities to enter agreements with Johnson County allowing the county to enforce its latest COVID-19 public health order regarding social distancing, mass gatherings and required closing times for businesses within the cities’ boundaries.

The Prairie Village, Leawood and Overland Park city councils all approved the agreements at their meetings Monday night. Prairie Village passed the measure 8-3, Leawood 5-2 and Overland Park 9-3.

Violators could face $500 fine

The agreements stipulate that the county, not the cities, will enforce the order through its codes department. The cities’ police departments will help by responding to complaints, educating violators, reporting repeat violations to county code enforcers and testifying if asked by the county.

Violators could face a maximum $500 fine under the county’s codes. The county could choose to enforce the order through the district court but opted for the agreement with cities, Prairie Village City Attorney David Waters said.

During Monday evening’s Prairie Village city council meeting, which took place remotely, city attorney David Waters said the council’s action would only apply to Johnson County’s recent order. If JoCo passed additional restrictions those would come back up to the council’s consideration, he said . Screenshot via Prairie Village Facebook page.

The order applies to businesses only and includes social distancing, size of gatherings and hours of operation, with midnight closure required. Mask wearing falls under Gov. Laura Kelly’s statewide order, which is enforced locally through the Johnson County District Attorney’s office, meaning law enforcement in the cities will not be policing people for masks.

Participating cities have discretion on how they will help the county with enforcement. Cities and the county can terminate the agreements at any time with written notice. The county’s order is set to expire Jan. 31 but could be extended.

The countywide order is binding everywhere in the county, Mayor Eric Mikkelson said. That includes unincorporated areas through a separate order that incorporates the new county order by reference.

“My view is that, since it is the law of the land, including in Prairie Village, this takes some of the burden of enforcement off the cities because the county has agreed to assume that role,” Mikkelson said.

Councilors voice concern with logistics, burden on restaurants

Prairie Village Ward 4 Councilmember Sheila Myers voted against the measure, saying she was “trying to understand what this will look like” regarding the police department’s involvement.

Meanwhile, Leawood Ward 4 Councilmember James Azeltine, who also voted ‘no’ for his city’s enforcement agreement, said he didn’t want the city “spending resources to fight anything” and was against having Leawood police “having any part on this.”

“Restaurants will be fined,” Azeltine said. “If a customer violates the mask order, a struggling restaurant has to fight for its life,” Azeltine said.

Leawood City Administrator Scott Lambers will decide what extent the police will be involved in the process, City Attorney Patty Bennett said. Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn said Johnson County Commission Chairman Ed Eilert didn’t foresee city police involvement. City police would get involved if a customer were to become belligerent, as in any other circumstance, Lambers said.

Leawood Ward 3 Councilmember Chuck Sipple, who also voted against the measure, said the city was “crying for business” and didn’t want a reputation “as a nanny group.”

Dunn said the county was “looking for a partnership. We partner with the county in many things. We need to be careful before we say we won’t help with this.”