Snohomish County Sheriff questions governor’s plan, says citizens should be allowed to return to work

Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney

Updated with comments from Gov. Jay Inslee during his Tuesday press conference and a statement from Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Adam Cornell.

Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney is making waves after he posted to his sheriff’s campaign Facebook page Tuesday night criticism of Gov. Jay Inslee’s approach to getting Washingtonians back to work in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

In an open letter to “Snohomish County Residents and Business Owners,” Fortney — who was elected sheriff in November 2019 — said he watched Inslee’s Tuesday night speech and “I am left to wonder if he even has a plan.”

Fortney started out by stating that “this virus is very real and sadly, it has taken 97 lives in Snohomish County. This is a very serious issue and the appropriate precautions need to be taken to protect our most vulnerable populations.

“However, our communities have already shown and continue to show they understand the severity of the situation and are doing all they can already to keep themselves, their families and neighbors safe and healthy,” he added.

Fortney was also critical of what he sees as the state’s unfair decision-making regarding what is defined as a local business. “If this Coronavirus is so lethal and we have shut down our roaring economy to save lives, then it should be all or nothing,” he wrote. “The government should not be picking winners or losers when it comes to being able to make an income for your family. If the virus is so lethal it shouldn’t matter whether you are building a school for the government, building a new housing development, restaurant owner, or you happen to be an independent contractor.”

“To the contrary, if the virus is proving to not be as lethal as we thought, maybe it’s time for a balanced and reasonable approach to safely get our economy moving again and allowing small businesses to once again provide an income for their families and save their businesses.”

Fortney also reiterated his decision to not carry out any enforcement for the current a stay-at-home order. “As your elected Sheriff I will always put your constitutional rights above politics or popular opinion,” he wrote. “We have the right to peaceably assemble. We have the right to keep and bear arms. We have the right to attend church service of any denomination. The impacts of COVID 19 no longer warrant the suspension of our constitutional rights.”

Fortney’s post as of mid-morning Monday had drawn about 3,600 comments to his Facebook page. Some commenters were supportive, citing examples of how they had been personally impacted by the shutdown, while others were dismayed, noting that the sheriff’s statements directly contradict the advice of public health officials.

The Governor’s Office also weighed in, with Deputy Communications Director Mike Faulk issuing the following statement:”It’s unfortunate when elected officials promote illegal activity that puts their community’s well-being at risk. That kind of leadership can only lead to more people getting sick, more rumor and more insecurity, and with the end result being a protracted crisis we must continue to mitigate.”

During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Inslee specifically talked about Fortney’s comments, noting that “we cannot have individual law enforcement officers arbitrarily decide which laws they are going to enforce and which they are not going to enforce.”

The governor also mentioned a statement by Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell in which Cornell said that “prosecuting attorneys and sheriffs carry a unique responsibility in our criminal justice system to serve as bulwarks to a civil society. Put simply, we are elected to serve under the laws not to act above them.”

In his statement, Cornell said that he also fears that Fortney’s statements “will be interpreted by some citizens around the state to grant license to willfully and blatantly violate the law.”

“Let me be clear: actions have consequences,” Cornell wrote. “State and local emergency proclamations are binding on all of us whether we agree with them or not. A violation of the law carries consequences and as county prosecutor I will continue to uphold my oath and exercise my prosecutorial discretion.”

— By Teresa Wippel

    1. Inslee needs to go. We can not stay closed indefinitely. We need to go back to work and resume our lives. He needs to end the quarentine, start opening things up and let us get back to normal. He needs to put his political agenda aside and think about us. People need and want to get back to work. People will put up with this for so long before rebelling. He will crush our economy if her keeps up with his ineptness.

  1. It would be nice if Inslee would show a clearer look at his timeline to reopen things. It certainly feels for most things like he is personally thinking at best sometime in June yet would prefer sometime in August but won’t even commit to if May 4th is going to get extended or not.

    One big question I have is when he decided to take down the temporary hospital in downtown Seattle what was the thinking that shows it was good to get rid of that capacity at that time and yet weeks later he is still only at the looking at re-opening hospitals to elective surgeries phase?

  2. Opening things ups say those who do not work or who don’t work outside their home. Don’t be foolish. Stay home and practice social distancing! Either that or move to Las Vegas where the mayor is stupidly going to open the casinos, or to Georgia…..just don’t come back to Washington! Thanks! Here’s to you…good-bye and good luck!

  3. How appallingly short-sighted: Claiming constitutional rights, some folks are bashing Governor Inslee for trying to prevent more outbreaks. Seems you’re overlooking the warnings of our scientific experts and brave health care workers who urge us to the side of caution. Are you gonna bash them, too?

  4. Why is it that so many people only believe the “experts” that say what we want to hear?

    Take any random politician on either side, they say just as much they are listening to the experts but don’t say exactly what the experts are saying. Then people that like them automatically say “X is doing a great job because he/she listens to the experts.”

    Even when the experts themselves say much of what they are doing is guess work, that they have been wrong a number of times by large margins and that even the most current models are their best look at the moment, not actual provable fact, because there are just too many unknowns.

    There are a ton of experts advising Trump, he is parroting things they tell him, yet the media narrative is that he needs to listen to the experts. Even when the experts personally say that Trump is listening to them the media and dems say he isn’t and attack.

    Making it local, take Inslee, “he is doing a great job because he listens to the experts” so how did he listen to the experts when he…

    closed commercial construction because it was too unhealthy but kept government construction open.

    closed cancer treatment facilities and elective surgeries but kept open planned parenthood.

    closed schools to protect the kids which predictably flooded other daycare options.

    got rid of copacity while at the same time things were not ready to re-open and there are experts warning of another wave of infections.

    not creating a uniform policy for grocery stores, for hospitals, for retailers. Every individual one has been left to implement a policy that makes sense to them based on very general guidelines and as far as I can see no two are the same.


    Don’t let the person that is saying something be the end all be all on your opinion of it being good or bad. If Trump had of set those policies would they still be good? Whould he be “listening to the experts.” If the answer is no then Inslee isn’t either.

    A bunch of D governors have been looking into medical tracking bracelets and drones, if someone is ok with that but would have a kitten if Trump proposed it don’t pretend to be objective. Just like when some R sherrif says he won’t enforce the stay at home order but none of the D sherrifs are enforcing it either, what is the point of getting upset?

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