Sonoma County Supervisors Discuss Possible Fines for Non-Compliance With COVID-19 Safety Measures

In a Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting Thursday, county officials discussed a proposed program that would involve giving out fines to residents for not complying with COVID-19 safety measures.

The board will vote Aug. 6 on whether to adopt the program that would entail stricter compliance efforts, with fines potentially ranging up to $10,000 for commercial incidents. The ranges have not been decided completely and will continue being discussed at the meeting next month.

The Board of Supervisors supported the idea of using a sliding scale for the fines, with a flat fee of $100 for non-commercial incidents and $1,000 for commercial incidents.

According to Deputy County Counsel Debbie Latham, the criteria used for determining the sliding scale will most likely come from the code of enforcement for land use violations that businesses must already follow.

In addition to park rangers who have already been implementing COVID-19 safety enforcement in public spaces, the new ordinance will also give code enforcement officers and administrative staff the power to enforce safety violations.

The enhanced education and outreach related to COVID-19 in Sonoma County will involve more funding toward a Safe Sonoma Summer campaign, which helps encourage residents to practice safe protocols, according to county Communications Manager Paul Gullixson.

The communication department for the county is brainstorming more ideas for public education components that will reach the Latinx community, who are being disproportionately affected by the virus, according to Gullixson.

Permit Sonoma Director Tennis Wick presented the potential for a COVID-19 Health Order Compliance Hotline that would provide residents one contact for county and cities, and county staff would process the complaints made.

According to Wick, there would be a three-step process when a complaint is made. The initial complaint would result in verification and warning.  The second complaint would result in a citation for the violation of different ordinances. Lastly, the third complaint would result in referral to the sheriff to take action under criminal law.

Other counties near Sonoma County that have adopted an Administrative Citation and Civil Penalty Ordinance include Marin, Mendocino, Napa and Yolo, according to Latham.

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