Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has withdrawn the lawsuit he filed against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the City Council over their decision to enforce the use of face masks and other COVID-19 restrictions. He however said he will be invoking an executive order on Saturday to ensure that his actions take precedence over those of Mayor Bottoms and the city council, ABC News reports.
A Republican governor, Kemp insists Democratic Mayor Bottoms has no rights to impose coronavirus restrictions that are different from his executive orders. A negotiation ordered by a judge for Kemp and Bottoms to reach a compromise failed, and it appears to be the reason why the governor dropped his case and opted for an executive action.
“In light of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ concession regarding the city’s Phase One roll-back plan and following her refusal in mediation to further negotiate a compromise, the Attorney General’s Office has filed to withdraw our pending lawsuit,” Gov. Brian Kemp said. “Given this stalemate in negotiations, we will address this very issue in the next Executive Order.”
Bottoms said she is grateful for the withdrawal of the lawsuit but noted that Gov. Kemp had deliberately been misleading the people of Georgia in matters related to the mandatory wearing of masks and reopening of businesses. She had earlier made it clear that Kemp’s July 16 was a personal retaliation against her, saying the governor “did not sue the city of Atlanta, he filed suit against myself and our city council personally.”
“While it is unfortunate that the Governor seeks to intentionally mislead the people of our state by issuing a woefully inaccurate statement regarding our good faith negotiations and the City’s reopening recommendations, I am grateful that this lawsuit has been withdrawn and the time and resources of our city and state can be better used to combat COVID-19,” Bottoms said.
The core of the disagreement is that Kemp encourages people to wear face masks but does not mandate it, while Bottoms mandated it and imposes a fine or jail for not using masks within the city. The governor argues that the mayor has no legal rights to enforce the wearing of masks because “Georgians don’t need a mandate to do the right thing”.
Lawyers for the City Council as well as the Georgia Municipal Association argued that the governor overstepped his authority by contradicting the efforts of the local governments to contain COVID-19 and that his lawsuit is barred by sovereign immunity since state and local governments cannot be sued without their consent.