Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

10 Aug 2021

Vaccination disclosure sought as requirement for attending a board meeting

Posted by Adam Howell


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Vaccination would be required in order to attend a Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting under an unwritten policy based on feelings that’s being championed by several board members.

The originally scheduled August 11th meeting was intended to be the first in-person meeting since since the COVID-19 mandates were lifted. After I refused to disclose my vaccination status, city staff changed it to a virtual Zoom meeting two days beforehand.

Parks and Recreation Board Chair Anthony Savastano took the lead on requesting the private medical information of board members before the August 11th meeting.

Previously we had come to the understanding that any hybrid or in-person meeting would require attendees to be vaccinated and to disclose that they were vaccinated. This decision was made prior to the rise of the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus. Please let me know if any one of you have any issues with meeting in person this Wednesday with the understanding that any in-person attendance will require the attending person to be vaccinated and to wear a mask. If we have any objections to this we will proceed with another virtual meeting,” said Board Chair Anthony Savastano.

To be clear, the board never voted on whether or not to require every board member who attends to be vaccinated. Even if the board did or does pass a motion to require the attending board members to be vaccinated, it would have no legal grounding. In fact, requiring anyone to disclose their private medical information in order to attend a public meeting is a fourth amendment violation.

Nobody can be forced to leave a public meeting or facility from an area that’s open to the general public unless they are committing a crime.

Forcefully barring someone from a public meeting based on their unwillingness to disclose medical information is a deprivation of rights under 42 U.S. Code § 1983.

“Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.
(R.S. § 1979; Pub. L. 96–170, § 1, Dec. 29, 1979, 93 Stat. 1284; Pub. L. 104–317, title III, § 309(c), Oct. 19, 1996, 110 Stat. 3853.)”

Resisting medical disclosure

I was the only board member to respond to Savastano’s email without disclosing what medical procedures I had or had not engaged in.

“Anthony,
You are asking me to disclose my personal medical information to you, which is none of your business.
Adam”

Savastano rebutted.

“Adam,

We serve on a volunteer board that you choose to serve on. Further, our board sets the protocols and rules for meeting attendance. While I appreciate your interest in privacy etc., these precautions are centered around providing a safe environment for all our members. I welcome you to attend virtually if you can not confirm your vaccination status. Will you be attending virtually or in-person?

Best,

Anthony”

Vaccination as a prerequisite to attending a public meeting?

In support of Savastano’s attempt to exclude all non-vaccinated people from the in-person meeting was board member Richard Hoehlein.

Hoehlein took the medical discrimination idea one step further by suggesting that not only should they be excluded, but they should lose their voting status on the board, as well.

“Anthony, I am prepared to attend in person with mask on.  I am fully vaccinated.  If a board member is not prepared to agree to your request, I suggest they attend virtually. If that is not possible or they refuse to participate that way, I recommend we proceed with an in-person meeting and have our alternate, Meghan Scully, serve as a voting member for that meeting.  I do not think the guidelines being asked to observe are anything other than a means, based on the most credible information available, to keep ourselves and each other as safe as possible. I also believe Seth’s comments on taking a mask off for public participation should be understood to be for brief comments by folks who attend our meeting, rather than for prolonger periods of discussion,” said Hoehlein.

Hoehlein appeared to believe that all non-vaccinated individuals could and/or should be barred from attending the public meetings at the Durango Community Recreation Center.

“I like the idea of a hyprid scenario going forward. I’m fully vaccinated. I trust other board members are, as well. What I would not be wanting to see happen would be somebody who has not been fully vaccinated, who nonetheless feels they’re eager to come and be face to face with us. So I would hope our board colleagues would agree that for those who would decide optionally they would like to be in attendance together that coming along with that is a commitment and a reassurance to the rest of us that yep, each of us who’s showing up live, face to face has been fully vaccinated. I would hate to see it be optional that somebody who for whatever reasons, is not fully vaccinated, nonetheless said, but I really want to come and see you guys face to face’. I would say for myself, thanks, but no thanks, don’t do that unless you are fully vaccinated,” said Hoehlein.

Either way, this idea of excluding all non-vaccinated individuals from the in-person meetings also had the support of board members Janet Wiley, Chair Savastano, and Vice Chair Tom Barney. Megan Scully wished to have the vaccination status provided to her ahead of time for anyone in attendance at the meetings.

It’s unclear what legal basis they think that the city would have for barring the entry of anyone who hasn’t engaged in the medical procedure of their choosing.

At this point, some on the board are pushing for a medical information disclosure policy that’s based upon feelings, and some recommendations from the local health department, but not based upon laws.

Please remember that where your feelings begin, my rights do not end.

Adam Howell is a writer who believes in free press and the importance of the constitution. He is a member of Durango’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. His comments are not a representation of the rest of the board. He can be reached by clicking on this link to the contact page.



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