Mayor claims harassment by legislator about masks

Shelli Selby sends letter to House Speaker

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Mayor Shelli Selby, left, and Rep. Jay Steagall, R-Yukon.

From Staff Reports

Yukon’s Mayor Shelli Selby has claimed she is being harassed by a state legislator over her emergency proclamation mandating masks for restaurant and bar workers.

Selby said she has felt threatened by Rep. Jay Steagall, R-Yukon.

On Friday, a Yukon police spokesman said a police report has been filed by Selby against Steagall.

Selby sent a letter to Rep. Charles McCall, Speaker of the House, complaining about the recent position by Steagall, who represents District 43.

Steagall has said he thinks the Yukon proclamation for masks for restaurant food servers and bar workers oversteps its bounds and is unconstitutional.

Steagall recently stated, “The mayor does not have the authority to issue the content of that emergency proclamation that she thinks she does,” said District 43 State Rep. Jay Steagall, R-Yukon.

“A municipality can’t enact or enforce a rule, regulation or ordinance that is inconsistent with state law. There’s no state law authorizing any government entity in the state to put anyone in a mask. So that’s an issue.”

Yukon’s emergency proclamation does not mandate masks for the general public except in Yukon municipal buildings.

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Selby’s entire letter follows:

Dear Mr. Speaker,

It is my duty to inform you that Representative Jay Steagall (District 43) has exceeded his authority as an elected leader and conducted himself in a manner that is unbecoming as a State Representative of Oklahoma. As a leader and steward of the House of Representatives, I request that you review and address this matter as soon as prudent.

In June of this year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I signed an emergency proclamation making it mandatory for food service personnel to wear a mask while working with food intended to be served to the general public. This proclamation also mandated social distancing in any venue with theater style seating to stagger their rows. Finally, this proclamation also mandated the wearing of a mask at any city managed building.

As you are aware on the state and national level, decisions related to the managing of this pandemic do not come easily or cavalierly. I came to this decision by consulting with numerous people including the county health department, city officials, trusted confidants, business leaders, and legal experts. All of this was to ensure that we strike the delicate balance between public health and personal liberty. These decisions are compounded by the economic realities that my city faces. I am sure that you can appreciate these realities as well, as we all work through the impact that COVID-19 has had on the Oklahoma business community. After working through all the implications and seeking wise counsel, I felt that the mandate I signed, struck the right balance of public health, personal liberty and economics, all of which are my priorities as Mayor of Yukon.

As with any decision of this nature, there are strong opinions about whether it was the right decision. As we all know, the burden of criticism comes with the territory of being in elected office. To no surprise, I was met with messages of both support and derision. What was unexpected is the response that I received from Representative Steagall.

Since my signed proclamation, Representative Steagall has harassed, ridiculed, demeaned, and threatened me in direct response to the painstaking decision that I made as Mayor of my city.

My first encounter with Representative Steagall came after a request for a meeting, which I agreed to. When meeting with him, he alluded to people who wanted to “take me down” and that he wanted to help me. In that meeting, he said that he had reviewed the proclamation and compared it to the Yukon city charter and said that the mandate was illegal. This assertion is directly contradicted by my legal counsel and has been affirmed by multiple opinions. He further went on to say that people were going to sue me and the city and that if they did, he would back them 100% and they would win.

I asked Representative Steagall to let me know who the people were that he was referencing to “take me down” and he would not say. I assured him that the proclamation had been reviewed by our legal team, but told him that we would do due diligence to make sure that the mandate fell within our legal powers.

Later that day, a meeting was held with the Honorable Retired Judge Gary Miller and members of both city management and members of the city council. In this meeting, Representative Steagall attempted to intimidate and berate Retired Judge Miller in saying that the mandate was illegal.

With both encounters this day, I believe that Retired Judge Miller, city management, members of the city council, and myself gave Representative Şteagall an opportunity to share his concern with the mandate as a citizen and an elected representative. After further discussion, it was decided that the mandate would remain in effect.

Days later, I received a call from a city council member informing me that Representative Steagall “needed to meet with me immediately to help me with my problem.”

I had already heard Representative Steagall’s concerns. I was also disappointed in his actions in telling the citizen of Yukon that the mandate that I signed was illegal, I declined the meeting.

An hour later, a friend of mine called and said that Representative Steagall had called her to let me know I was in “big trouble” and that “people were out to get me” and that I should talk with him to keep myself safe. I told my friend that if Representative Steagall wanted to speak with me, he should contact me directly and leave my friends out of this.
Fifteen minutes later he called asking for a meeting at his gun shop. I thought a state representative asking a sitting mayor to meet him at his private business was inappropriate, I refused. He continued to talk about my safety, although he could not name either a specific threat or specific individual making the threat. He continued to say that my proclamation was illegal. I once again stated that based on the consultation that I already engaged in, as well as the Governor’s own statement in regards to public health policy being left at the local level, I informed him once again that he and I disagree on that and that I would not rescind the proclamation.

Representative Steagall insisted that I was in trouble and was leading me to believe I was in danger. I asked him to specifically identify the trouble I was in, and he continued to be ambiguous.

Which begs the question, if an elected leader is informed of a credible threat against another elected leader, isn’t the appropriate action to inform law enforcement? Why is it that Representative Steagall not following this common sense action? If Representative Steagall was informed of a credible threat against another elected leader, would he take appropriate steps to mitigate that threat or would he use it to his political advantage?
After asking about the trouble and apparent danger I was in and him not being able to identify it, he said:

“This is how it is going to go down. Either you rescind your proclamation, or I am going to write a position paper, and have it filed and published to show the people what all you are doing illegally.”

He went on to continue to threaten legal action as he said that the Capitol attorneys and the governor’s office reviewed my proclamation and stood behind him. Again, I informed him that my legal team had a different opinion.

Since then, Representative Steagall called our local paper the Yukon Progress and requested an article be written about the mandate. I have also learned that Representative Steagall has talked to restaurants directly telling them to actively disobey my lawful proclamation. He has told them openly that my mandate is illegal and employees should quit wearing their masks.

Is this the action of a state representative? Is it appropriate for an elected leader of the State of Oklahoma to encourage citizens to break the law? Is it appropriate for a member of House leadership? Is it part of Representative Steagall’s character to be so openly divisive against those he disagrees with? As elected leaders, do we not implicitly set example for the citizenry? Is this the example we want to set for our people in the midst of crisis?

Are you comfortable with an elected leader using his position to bully and harass a mayor of a city? Are you comfortable with a member of House leadership acting in such a way?
Furthermore, as District 43 covers Oklahoma City as well, where is Representative Steagall’s outrage at Oklahoma City’s mask mandate, which goes a lot further than Yukon’s? Per my conversation with leaders within Oklahoma City city government, they have not heard from Representative Steagall regarding their mask mandate, despite his district also covering parts of OKC. I can’t help but think it is because Representative Steagall feels like he can harass, intimidate, or otherwise bully me in ways that he feels he cannot bully the Mayor of Oklahoma City.

As a duly elected member of the Oklahoma House of Representative, Representative Steagall has multiple options available to him, if he believes that mask mandates are illegal or otherwise unconstitutional, he can garner support for legislation censuring city leaders for their mandates. He can request an audience with the Governor, who can then rescind his own emergency proclamation. He can garner support for a bill against municipal mask mandates. He can avail himself to the courts asking for injunction. He can stand on the Capitol steps and have a press conference. There are countless more appropriate methods to express his views. Instead, he decided to harass, implicitly threaten, and bully me. This is a gross overreach of a member of the legislature and an abuse of his power. These actions are worthy of condemnation and censure. Whether this is an action that you would want out of your house leadership is your purview.

This last month of harassment and bullying has gone on long enough. Even though Representative Steagall is not one of my residents, I respected his position as an elected leader and heard his position. He continued with tactics of intimidation that are not appropriate for an elected member of the House of Representatives, not appropriate as a veteran, not even appropriate as a citizen of the great state of Oklahoma. These actions were petulant and childish. If I were not a part of this story, I’d be embarrassed for him.
After speaking with confidants and seeking wise counsel from trusted sources, including colleagues of yours, I have determined that I have no other choice but to file a police report. I wish for Representative Steagall to seek appropriate redress of concerns. That redress is not through the actions he’s already taken. Representative Steagall is to cease and desist all acts of intimidation and harassment immediately.

I am also in consultation with the city manager and other law enforcement officials. If he continues to encourage local businesses to defy my proclamation, I will seek charges against Representative Steagall for conspiring to commit an illegal act. We are trying to keep our people safe and also working to do everything in our power to avoid another devastating shut down of our businesses. Representative Steagall’s actions do not contribute to that end. This episode has occupied too much of my time that could’ve otherwise been devoted to continue this delicate balance that we are working toward.

Absent a court order, Representative Steagall does not have standing, as a member of the legislature, to come in and disrupt me and my team as we continue our work. Absent a court order, Representative Steagall has nothing further to say to me as either mayor or in my private life. If he continues his harassment, I will seek my own redress as legal and appropriate.

As Representative Steagall is newly elected to the House of Representative of the state of Oklahoma, it would seem that he needs guidance on what is appropriate and ethical. I am confident that you, in your leadership, will educate the good Congressman on his powers and purview.

Thank you for your attention in this matter. I look forward seeing this resolved.

Regards,
Mayor Shelli Selby.