3 councilmembers join Nebraska AG lawsuit to stop Omaha mask mandate

Dr. Lindsay Huse
Dr. Lindsay Huse
Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 5:40 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Three Omaha City Councilmembers on Friday joined the Nebraska Attorney General’s lawsuit fighting the Omaha mask mandate.

Councilman Pete Festersen issued a statement Tuesday, stating that the majority of the Omaha City Council was in support of Dr. Huse’s decision to implement a mask mandate.

But in a statement sent Friday afternoon on behalf of Councilmembers Brinker Harding, Aimee Melton, and Don Rowe, the trio called the mask mandate “government overreach.” Accusing Douglas County Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse of exceeding her authority, they said that by enacting the municipal code, she had “levied a substantial and invasive burden on the citizens of Omaha.”

Their full statement:

“Regardless of your opinion on masks, the Councilmembers believe this kind of government overreach should concern everyone.

By unilaterally decreeing a mask mandate, Dr. Huse has levied a substantial and invasive burden on the citizens of Omaha without the consideration and approval of their democratically-accountable representatives on the Council and in the Mayor’s office.

Dr. Huse has not only exceeded her authority under the municipal code, she has assumed for herself a legislative function and usurped the City Council’s legislative power in Article II of the Home Rule Charter.”

Councilmembers Harding, Melton, and Rowe

The mandate was put into effect Wednesday by Dr. Huse, who said she used an Omaha city code to enact the requirement.

Harding, Melton, and Rowe are filed in the lawsuit as “intervenor plaintiffs,” specifically targeting Dr. Huse. In Friday’s release, they note that their actions do not pertain to anyone else named in the lawsuit: the Douglas County Board of Health and each of its members as well as Mayor Jean Stothert, Douglas County Sheriff Thomas Wheeler, Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson filed the lawsuit late Wednesday seeking to stop enforcement of the Omaha mask mandate. He argued that Dr. Huse unilaterally issued the mandate without approval from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and that Huse exceeded her authority under local and state law.

A hearing on the matter has been set for Jan. 24.

Dr. Huse recently sought legal counsel, which determined she had the legal authority to introduce the mandate based on city code — but could only do it for the city rather than countywide. Omaha City Attorney Matt Kuhse said Tuesday that the city’s code supports Dr. Huse’s authority.

Investigative reporters Brian Mastre and John Chapman contributed to this report.

Read the updated lawsuit

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