Leavenworth city commissioners have approved an updated Uniform Public Offense Code that includes a provision for the enforcement of public health orders.
Commissioners approved the UPOC when they met Tuesday. The vote was 4-1 with Commissioner Jermaine Wilson voting against the motion.
Each year, the League of Kansas Municipalities produces an updated Uniform Public Offense Code, which establishes criminal offenses that can be enforced at the municipal level. And the Leavenworth City Commission traditionally adopts an updated version each year.
The 2020 version includes a new provision concerning violations of county health orders.
Some local residents objected to passage of this section of the Uniform Public Offense Code, expressing concern about the Leavenworth Police Department enforcing orders from an unelected county health officer.
Members of the public who attended Tuesday’s meeting also expressed concern about the enforcement of a mask order.
City Attorney David Waters said city commissioners were not voting on a mask order during Tuesday’s meeting.
"It is not a face mask order," he said.
Waters noted Gov. Laura Kelly had issued a statewide mask order, but the Leavenworth County government opted the county out of the order.
Waters said state law gives commissioners in county government and the county health officer power to address public health issues.
"These are long standing statutes that have been in place," he said.
Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens said the Leavenworth Police Department already had the ability to refer violations of health orders to the County Attorney’s Office for prosecution. But he said the cases could not be handled in Leavenworth Municipal Court.
During the last six months, the Police Department has not been compelled to take action against anyone, Kitchens said.
Waters said the new provision in the Uniform Public Offense Code was drafted to clarify that misdemeanor violations of county health orders can be enforced through municipal court in a way that is consistent with state law.
"As of right now, there is no order of the county health officer to enforce," he said.
Waters said the provision in the Uniform Public Offense Code does not address enforcement of orders from the governor. That is because a recent state law now requires enforcement of governor’s orders to be handled as civil actions.