The story has been updated to correct a quote by City Attorney Aaron Martin.
A change in the Uniform Public Offense Code for Kansas Cities could give the Dickinson County Health Officer and Department more power to enforce written orders in Abilene.
“That is not a mask ordinance,” City Attorney Aaron Martin told the Abilene City Commission at a study session on Monday. The city commission is expected to review the code with possible adoption at the next meeting at 4 p.m. Monday in the Abilene Public Library.
Martin said the new section says it shall be unlawful for any person to refuse or fail to comply with a written order issued by the county health officer, board of health or director of health in the city of Abilene.
“In a nutshell, if we adopt the uniform public offense code as published by the Kansas League of Municipalities, we would adopting that provision,” Martin said.
“We are not adopting a mask order by incorporating this provision,” he said.
Martin said the mask order is an executive order by Gov. Laura Kelly which the Dickinson County Commission did not adopt out of.
That order, which requires a mask in most public places, is not a written order of the county health officer.
“So we would not be in a position to enforce that in municipal court if approved,” he said.
He said the county health officer does have the legal authority to issue quarantines and stay at home orders during a public health crisis.
“It is and has been a crime to not obey the county health officer’s orders,” Martin said. “Generally, that would be enforced in district court by the county attorney.”
He said, “The county health officer may order any sheriff, deputy sheriff or other law enforcement officer of the state or any subdivision to assist in the execution or enforcement of any order issued under this section.”
Martin said it was unclear if that order could be enforced in municipal court.
“It is my understanding that the League of Kansas Municipalities wanted to clarify that by including this new very explicit provision in the uniform public offense code. It now makes it an explicit crime under city code, if adopted, to not obey the order of the Kansas health officers.
No written orders
Martin said, though he doesn’t represent the county, there is no written order by the county health officer.
“Essentially, if we adopt this as is, it would be on the books and in the event of some future written order of the county health officer, it would apply to any violation of that and police officers could cite and violations could be prosecuted in municipal court,” he said.
Martin said that the provision has been discussed by other cities.
He said the uniform code covers all the matters that come to municipal court other than traffic matters,” Martin said. “There is a separate set of traffic ordinances.”
Martin said it is not necessary for the city to adopt the entire public code.
“Cities can pick and choose which parts they wish to adopt or not adopt,” he said. “Historically, the city of Abilene has adopted the entire code.”
In order action:
• The commissioners agreed to move forward with a public hearing for the determination of the property at 1015 N. Mulberry Street as unsafe or dangerous;
• Reviewed a real estate offer by New Horizon Hemp Processing to purchase property in the industrial park addition for $6,000 an acre rather the receive the land for free. Tina Kelly said the business still plans to expand but a rate more allowable;
• Heard zoning violations for an above ground pool at 800 N.E. Seventh Street. Owner Nathan Cole said he was given permission by the city to have the pool but a fence was required. Cole agreed to move the pool and fence.