Sheriff has no authority over stay-at-home order, commissioners say

Milford. Commissioners say they are concerned that a recent statement by the sheriff will convey a message that the governor’s stay-at-home order will not be enforced. The authority to enforce the order is strictly within the province of the Pennsylvania State Police and municipal police, they said.

15 May 2020 | 04:24

Editor's note: The Pike County Commissioners -- Matthew Osterberg, Ronald Schmalzle, and Steven Guccini -- issued the following statement to clarify a recent statement by Pike County Sheriff Kerry Welsh regarding Gov. Tom Wolf's stay at home order:

The Pike County Sheriff recently issued a statement with respect to Governor Wolf’s COVID-19 Stay at Home Order, saying, in part, that the Sheriff’s Office “will not be enforcing, if asked to do so, any order that violates either the United States Constitution or the Pennsylvania Constitution.”

The Pike County Commissioners feel it is imperative to clarify for our citizens that the Pike County Sheriff’s Office does not, in fact, have the authority to enforce this order. Accordingly, we agree that his office will not be providing enforcement. The Sheriff’s duties are to serve papers and provide security for the Court of Common Pleas, to provide security at County buildings, and to transport prisoners.

We are concerned that the Sheriff’s statement will convey a message that the Governor’s order will not be enforced. The authority to enforce the Governor’s Stay at Home Order is strictly within the province of law enforcement officials, namely the Pennsylvania State Police or municipal police. The Sheriff’s Office can become involved only if those law enforcement authorities request assistance from the Sheriff.

Additionally, and most importantly, neither the Sheriff nor the County Commissioners have the authority to determine that an act of the State Legislature or an order of the Governor is unconstitutional. Only Courts can make that determination, and in this case the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled Governor Wolf’s Stay at Home Order to be Constitutional and the United States Supreme Court has declined to hear the case.

The Pike County Commissioners will continue to follow the law, as is our obligation pursuant to the Oath of Office that we took. We believe this is the best path to opening up safely and at the earliest possible date.

We will continue to work with and alongside the Sheriff to serve the people of Pike County. He and his department are a very important part of County Government.

For more information regarding the duties of the Sheriff’s Office visit pikepa.org/sheriff or call 570-296-6459.

Wayne County moves to yellow reopening phase while Pike stays red:
Gov. Tom Wolf on May 15 announced that Wayne County was among 12 additional Pennsylvania counties that will move to the yellow phase of reopening at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, May 22. The other counties are Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Susquehanna, Wyoming, and York. Twenty-four counties moved into the yellow phase of reopening on May 8 and another 13 moved to yellow beginning May 15. With these additional 12 counties, there will be a total of 49 counties in the yellow phase. The remaining 18 counties, including Pike County, are still in the red, stay-at-home phase. No county is yet in the green, no restrictions phase. "Through our social distancing efforts, we have not only reversed a trajectory of exponential new case growth -- we have cut it in half," Gov. Wolf said. "And some of the counties that will be shifting into the yellow phase next week eliminated concerns that we had just two weeks ago. So please, keep up your efforts in the fight so we can continue to add counties to t he list of those in the yellow phase. Thank you again for your patience and your hard work."
"The Pike County Commissioners will continue to follow the law, as is our obligation pursuant to the Oath of Office that we took. We believe this is the best path to opening up safely and at the earliest possible date."