Mask ordinance enforcement questioned

By Al Dozier

At a special called meeting Tuesday the town of Irmo renewed a recently expired ordinance requiring citizens to wear face masks after hearing citizen complaints.

But is it enforceable?

At Tuesday’s meeting Police Chief Courtney Dennis acknowledged that the town could not impose the ordinance’s $100 fine on offenders because it is defined as a “civil” violation, not a “criminal” violation. He said such a violation would have to be imposed by a civil court, which Irmo doesn’t have.

Dennis said his office does respond to complaints from restaurant owners and businesses about mask violations.

Councilwoman Kathy Condom said after the meeting that police will respond to complaints and notify anyone violating the mask ordinance that it is against the law. She said that notification works, even though a ticket is not issued.

Mayor Barry Walker Sr. said after the meeting the town would consider further legal options for enforcement.

The 30-day renewal didn’t get a unanimous vote.

Walker and council members Condom and Erik Sickinger supported the renewal, but council members Kelly Busch and Bill Danielson opposed it.

The ordinance requires citizens to wear face masks or coverings while inside a restaurant or retail store. This would include but is not limited to grocery stores, convenience stores, sporting goods stores, furniture stores, clothing stores, pharmacies, laundromats, and alcoholic beverage stores.