Steve Pelton

Don’t expect the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office to enforce the county’s mask mandate.

“The sheriff’s department is not going to go around and be the mask police,” Sheriff Steve Pelton told The Missourian Friday. “We had 50,000 calls for activity last year and another 6,900 civil service calls. This office is busy prioritizing criminal activity.”

Pelton said he learned about the county commissioners approving the mandate in an email sent 4:45 p.m. Thursday. He said he sees violations of the mask ordinance as more like code enforcement or health code violations.

“If we receive a report of a mask violation, I would refer them to the county health department or the county commission,” Pelton wrote.

Ultimately, people can choose to go to businesses that require or don’t require masks, Pelton wrote.

“A business has a right to refuse service to anyone,” he wrote. “If a business asks an individual to don a mask or leave and they refuse to leave, they are trespassing. As a citizen they can choose to conduct business at any location they choose.”

The mandate, which is in effect until Sunday, Dec. 20, allows fines of up to $15 per violation for people or $100 for businesses, government entities or nonprofit agencies.

“We do encourage our citizens to make good decisions to safeguard our community and are asking our citizens to be respectful to others during these trying times,” Pelton wrote. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the virus and to those that have suffered financially due to the virus.”

Union Police Capt. Rick Neace also said he did not hear about the commissioners’ decision until after it was approved.

“Nobody informed us of it until we read about it on Facebook,” he said Friday morning. “I’ve got to do some investigating and see what’s going on.”