Springfield attorney Kristi Fulnecky held a noon press conference Aug. 6 in front of Branson City Hall to announce a lawsuit has been filed with Taney County against the city of Branson’s mandate on face coverings.
The lawsuit, a copy of which was provided to media, states it was filed on behalf of plaintiffs Jamie Hall, owner of Branson Etched Mugs (an online business that rents open retail space within the city), and Bo Dejager, owner of Foam Bros (an insulation contractor).
“I’ve received a lot of phone calls from area businesses in Branson and individuals,” said Fulnecky. “It sounds like the first reading and the second reading both were overwhelmingly against passing a mask mandate in Branson. So, I’m here to represent all those people and to be a voice, and specifically, for these plaintiffs.”
“Many businesses feel that it’s an overreach of government, that the aldermen did not have the authority to pass such an overreaching ordinance, and that there’s not a compelling reason (to wear a face covering).”
The defendants listed in the lawsuit are the city of Branson, as well as Board of Aldermen members Bill Skains, Bob Simmons, Jeff Seay and Jamie Whiteis – the four aldermen who voted in favor of the mandate, which was approved by a 4-1 vote on July 28. It remains in effect until Sept. 8 when the aldermen can extend the mandate or let it expire.
When asked for a response to the lawsuit, Branson City Attorney Chris Lebeck sent a statement by email.
“At this time the City of Branson has not been served with a suit,” said Lebeck in the email. “I hope Ms. Fulnecky has the opportunity at some point between her grandstanding in both the City of Branson and the City of Springfield to review Rule 4-3.6 of the Rules of Professional Conduct with regards to her ethical responsibilities as a licensed attorney with regards to pretrial publicity. It is disappointing that she continues to not honor the integrity of our judicial system by her prejudicial pretrial comments.”
His mention of Springfield refers to a recent lawsuit filed by Fulnecky against Springfield for its face covering mandate.
She has also recently filed a suit against Springfield Public School over its re-entry plan.
The Branson lawsuit calls for temporary and permanent injunctive relief and declaratory relief. The plaintiffs also request a temporary restraining order (TRO) to halt the face covering ordinance.
“We don’t legislate when there’s infectious and contagious diseases of flu or tuberculosis in anything else that causes a higher death rate and higher percentage of infected individuals,” said Fulnecky. “So, my question is, why is it that we’re doing it for COVID? (When the death rate) is so much less than 1%, does that justify the government to pass laws that are overreaching and that’s going to restrict us as citizens and businesses that we’re not even going to be able to keep our doors open? I’m really worried about Branson. I’ve had quite a few calls that people say, ‘I don’t know if the theatres and the other businesses in Branson are going to be able to survive after this,’ and I really feel sorry for them. All we want is an option, that if you want to wear a mask, you can wear it.
“If you don’t want to wear a mask, then you don’t have to.”
In the lawsuit, Fulnecky cites Roe vs. Wade, where the U.S. Supreme Court found an implied constitutional right to privacy with abortion, and says the plaintiffs, Hall and Dejager, argue that they control their own bodies and health and have a fundamental right to privacy, and that the Board of Aldermen cannot invade their expectation of privacy, based on Roe vs. Wade.
“One of our strongest legal arguments is a right to privacy,” said Fulnecky.
This story is ongoing and more information will be released when made available.