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Utah County Commissioner at center of mask drama wants to clarify his position

Posted at 8:34 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 23:22:58-04

UTAH COUNTY — Utah County made national headlines after a Utah County Commission meeting was cancelled after the room was packed with people refusing to wear masks or practice social distancing.

Two out of three commissioners, including Tanner Ainge and Nathan Ivie voted for the meeting to be postponed due to health concerns. Commissioner Bill Lee, however, voted against postponing the meeting with hopes that they could continue in a safe manner.

“We could have corrected a lot of this drama in our commission meeting,” Lee said.

Before the meeting began, people marched outside against Gov. Gary Herbert’s k-12 school mask mandate. On the meeting’s agenda, was a proposed letter addressed to the Utah County Health Dir. That would eventually, if passed, be sent to Gov. Herbert in response to the mask mandate.

“As this story kind of evolved and rolled, I realized most people had not even seen or read the letter that I was proposing and so in recognizing that and seeing how it kind of filtered in different directions, I thought, I got to get this out,” Lee said.

People jumped to conclusions without reading the letter, Lee said. The letter was in response to concerns he had received from parents with children who have mental or emotional issues, for example, he said.

“I have never said that there should be a full repeal or exemption to it, what I said is that there needs to be compassion in it. That there needs to be an opportunity for looking through common sense and finding compassion in the use of the face masks that are being used in schools,” he said.

You can read the full letter here

“My purpose in engaging in this issue has always been simply to ask the State to support the reasonable accommodations requested by Utah County’s school districts,” Lee said in a news release.

Commissioner Nathan Ivie said he is grateful for Lee speaking out.

“It’s always good to clarify or to backpedal when you get something wrong,” he said.

The meeting made Utah County look bad and was not a good representation of the great people of Utah County, Ivie said.

“I had two individual women who called me the day after the meeting, good moms, one’s a teacher who had attended the meeting and one was just in tears because she was like I am plastered all over national news and people think I’m some kind of crazy lunatic, when I just simply came to a meeting to say I am concerned how I am going to keep masks on a second grader,” he said.

Lee questioned if his fellow commissioners even read the letter before jumping to conclusions.

“Again, it was just a letter. It’s not changing law. It was an ask for consideration,” he said.

Ivie said he did read the letter, but was caught off guard since he only found out about the letter and rally after his email inbox began filling up, he said.

“It is hard to be informed when your colleague doesn’t reach out to you about something, they know is going to be a hot button topic,” he said.

The meeting will not be rescheduled, although Lee and Ivie said all three commissioners hoped to set up a town hall about the mask mandate in schools but weren’t able to get enough leaders who can make decisions on board. The next Utah County Commission meeting will be next week and while the letter will not be on the agenda Lee said he plans to have it submitted to the record.