Androscoggin County Commissioner Isaiah Lary of Wales watches as his anti-mask supporters were asked to reduce their numbers in the room at meeting earlier this month in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — The Androscoggin County Commissioner who has twice proposed the county ignore Gov. Janet Mills’ mask-wearing mandate has been asked to stay home for two weeks from his water authority job with the city.

Travis Peaslee, general manager of the Lewiston-Auburn Water Pollution Control Authority, said Isaiah Lary of Wales is considered nonessential personnel who has only occasionally needed to come into the office on Lincoln Street during the pandemic.

“He has been working mostly remote but does still work within the facility at times, so (I) asked that he work 100% remotely once his commissioner position went public,” Peaslee said in an email.

At a commission meeting last week, Lary, who represents Lisbon, Sabattus and Wales on the commission, proposed a resolution that “all citizens, businesses and visitors of Androscoggin County are free to wear or not wear masks or other similar devices, and to peaceably assemble for religious or secular reasons, according to the dictates of their own conscience and preference.”

More than two hours of passionate testimony followed, with many in attendance, Lary included, not wearing masks. The resolution was ultimately tabled.

Asked if the decision to keep Lary working remotely was due to concerns about possible COVID-19 exposure, Peaslee said no.

“The intent of having him go 100% remote was to isolate any of the public attention from the authority and the great work we are trying to do,” he said. “His personal views and what he does outside of the facility have no (bearing) on our operation nor our policies. We have a face covering policy that he has complied with when in the office and was issued a face shield in lieu of a mask.”

Peaslee said he would reevaluate his decision in two weeks. He also said there have been no known COVID-19 exposures in the office reported to date.

Lary is listed in the staff directory as a compliance coordinator. In response to questions about his work-at-home status, Lary said in an email that he was not authorized to discuss LAWPCA matters.

“As a commissioner I will state this is an attempt to distract from the main issue,” he said. “Governor Mills and her administration have been acting outside of the Maine State Constitution’s boundaries for limited government, chiefly the separation of powers that we all learned about in 8th grade, and the non-delegation clause in Article III. The Maine Emergency Management Act severely violates these constitutional boundaries by giving the governor vast lawmaking and rule making authority, without necessary protections against arbitrary actions and the people of Maine are suffering as a result.”

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey sent commissioners a letter last week saying they were “legally obligated to require that all persons attending public meetings, including the commissioners themselves, wear face coverings.”

Frey also said in the letter: “The resolution purports to exempt all persons in Androscoggin County from face covering requirements imposed by executive orders. To the extent this resolution is premised on the notion that the executive orders are not constitutional, I assure you, as Maine’s chief law enforcement officer, that the executive orders are constitutional and, as noted above, are enforceable through both civil and criminal processes.”

Lary is one of three commissioners facing a potential citizen recall effort due to what the recall group spokesman called “anti-mask craziness.”

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