Governor Chris Sununu has extended his “stay at home” order through May 31. In it he purports to instruct free New Hampshire citizens that they may not leave their homes except for certain reasons that he, and he alone, approves. And he instructs state and local police to enforce his order. New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald has issued a memorandum to law enforcement advising them that they can arrest people for violating Sununu’s emergency orders.
U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has called these stay-at-home orders “disturbingly akin to house arrest.” The governor does not have the authority to place American citizens under house arrest.
Shortly after Sununu issued his first stay-at-home order in March, I contacted Tuftonboro Police Chief Andrew Shagoury to tell him I would not be complying with an unconstitutional order. Andy wrote back to me, stating, “We will not be arresting you if you leave your house.”
For the record, I have not complied with the governor’s house-arrest order since he first issued it on March 26. I have left my home numerous times for reasons that the governor does not condone and that are none of his business. And I will continue to do so.
I am renewing my declaration that I believe the governor’s order to be unconstitutional and that I will not comply with it. I will leave my house at any time for any reason that I see fit.
On Tuesday, Andy reaffirmed to me via email that he has no intention of arresting anyone for violating the governor’s stay-at-home order. I greatly appreciate Andy’s approach to this situation. In many municipalities across the country, however, police departments have overstepped their bounds to an alarming degree. We have seen people arrested for paddle-boarding alone in the ocean and for letting their children play on nearly empty playgrounds; for opening a tattoo parlor for business; rabbis and ministers have even been arrested and fined for leading religious services. The mayor of Chicago recently threatened to monitor and arrest people if they even discuss house parties on Facebook.
All of these incidents are shocking to the American way of life. I hope you join me in condemning these violations of our fundamental God-given rights.
The U.S. Constitution, and other laws of the land, have not suddenly disappeared.
For instance, RSA 149-M requires New Hampshire towns to provide a disposal facility for “Solid Waste.” The statute defines “Solid Waste” as including “Refuse,” and it defines “Refuse” as including “Construction and Demolition Debris.” On April 26, 2020, Clay Gallagher, the supervisor of the Tuftonboro transfer station, called the Tuftonboro police department on me because I arrived at the transfer station with a trailer full of construction and demolition debris (“C & D”)—namely old rotten wood boards.
As I told Thomas LaFavre (the officer who responded to Clay’s call), I do not appreciate being treated as a criminal for simply going to the transfer station to dispose of garbage. The town’s officers must have more important things to do with their time. The town should comply with RSA 149-M, which has not been voided or altered during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no logical rationale for prohibiting town residents from dumping their construction debris in the four containers set up—more than 100 feet from the transfer-station office—for that purpose.
C & D is no small thing. Clay reported that, in February, C & D accounted for 45 percent of all the waste that Tuftonboro shipped to the landfill. Safe waste disposal is a basic civic responsibility of all towns. Piles of C & D (rusty nails, rotting wood, loose insulation) near our homes can be a serious public health hazard, which is why the general court enacted RSA 149-M in the first place.
I went to the selectmen’s meeting this past Monday and asked them why they had stopped taking C & D. Selectman Bill Marcussen told me with an air of authority that the law requires them only to take household trash and that C & D is optional. However, when I read him the actual plain text of the law, he became very quiet. Selectman Chip Albee then admitted that he has never read 149-M, a shocking admission to make. Shouldn’t the selectmen have bothered to read the law before they voted unanimously to break it? Selectman Lloyd Wood then told me that my time was up and that they had many important things to talk about.
But what’s more important than fidelity to the law? Elected officials and law-enforcement officers alike swear an oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the land. The ban on C & D remains in place. If the selectmen have a legal justification for this, they should offer it.