Greenlee County administer responds to softball event shut down

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci junior shortstop Brigid Silvester goes down low to prevent the ball from getting past her during a match against Safford in March 2019. A recent softball tournament in Greenlee County was shut down for not being in compliance with county policies.

Staff Reports

GREENLEE COUNTY – On Saturday, a youth softball tournament in Greenlee County involving teams from Duncan, Globe, and Willcox was shut down by Greenlee County Administer Derek Rapier due to a policy infringement.

Afterward, the tournament continued in Graham County and one of the parents involved in the tournament, Shiloh Patton, posted the following on social media.

“Welcome to Greenlee County where masked men (that work for us) see fit to run off young athletes, their dedicated parents, and hard-working volunteers from an outside field in 110-degree weather.” (sic)

“Who knew trying to do something productive and healthy for young girls would label me an outlaw? I always thought it would be something bad like punching someone in the mouth, never thought it would be because my girl loves softball.”

“Those families loaded up and took their revenue to Graham County, where we finished playing three more softball games with no problems at all.”

“So, good job masked men! You must feel so proud of yourselves. I have so much more to say about this, but it would take too long to type. Just know, there was every precaution taken to ensure handwashing, social distancing, and sanitizing.”

On Tuesday, Rapier posted his response to the issue on Greenlee County’s website and shared it with the Gila Herald. He wrote:

“On Saturday, there was a terribly unfortunate situation where I made the difficult decision to stop a softball “friendly” event involving three youth softball teams from Duncan, Globe, and Willcox. The decision was made to keep the public safe, comply with the requireme3nts of Arizona law, comply with Greenlee County facility use policies, and avoid incurring liability to the county. This decision was not easy and made in consultation with the County Attorney’s Office and the County Health Department.”

“In order to use Greenlee County facilities, and organization must reserve them before the event. This allows the county to review the event, ensure county facilities are prepared to the proper standard, turn on water and clean restrooms, and ensure the event is being held in compliance with Arizona law. This procedure is to be followed for all events, even before the current pandemic.”

“For a variety of reasons, the county was not contacted prior to the event and no process was followed, therefore no arrangements had been made for the county to prepare the facilities or prepare for a gathering of this size. For example, the event began with no running water in the bathrooms and no plan for the protection of the public had been presented for review by the health department. Some of the fault lies with the county. For example, the first rule on the large sign at the ballfield says that it is to be used by reservation only, but the telephone number at the bottom of the sign is unreadable.”

“While we don’t like to think about things that could go wrong during an event at county facilities, all counties in the state require that organizations using county facilities to prove that they are properly insured before events occur. As a result, we require that organizations using county facilities provide proof of insurance that protects the county prior to the activity so that we have time to review the adequacy of the policy. Many insurance providers that previously covered entities are refusing to provide full coverage during the pandemic. As a result, a legal review of the insurance policies is key to protecting the county. Unfortunately, no insurance coverage for the event was presented to the county prior to the event. I have been told that the families of team members have filled out COVID waiver forms intended to protect the coaches and their organizations. However, no such forms protecting the county were completed or provided.”

“We want the county facilities to be used. The goal going forward is that everyone is aware of and can comply with the facility-use rules for Greenlee County facilities. The county has established policy and protocol to make sure that all protections are in place prior to the event. This can be found here. You can also contact the public works office at (928) 687-2001 with further questions about this application process.”

“Finally, as a county, we must comply with Arizona law and the county’s own regulations. We are fortunate to live in a society that is based on the orderly application of laws that not only outline who has authority to pass laws and regulations and who may issue orders but also provides for an orderly way to change or challenge laws. On June 29, 2020, Governor (Doug) Ducey ordered that all organized public events of more than 50 people are prohibited unless the city, town, or county has approved the event and approval may only be granted if adequate safety precautions are implemented. In Greenlee County, the Board of Supervisors has delegated the authority to grant gathering permits to the Greenlee County Health Department.”

“This event was over 50 people and the organizers did not ask for approval from the Greenlee County Health Department. As a result, the event was prohibited by Governor Ducey’s order. Greenlee County is a subdivision of the state of Arizona and cannot disregard state law. Additionally, no interaction was initiated with the county to review the applicability of Greenlee County’s mask-wearing regulation for this event. The Board of Supervisors renewed this regulation at its last meeting until at least Sept. 17 and it can be viewed at greenlee.az.gov. under the Public Notices section of the website.”  https://greenlee.az.gov/resources/public-notices

“There is no shortage of very strong opinions about COVID-19 and what should be the proper response.  I recognize that the Governor’s order and the local mask-wearing regulation are extremely unpopular with many in our community.  However, as appealing as it may sound for government officials to pick and choose which laws to apply and which to ignore, doing so places us on a very dangerous path.  Because while you may be happy that the government chooses not to apply a law you disagree with, perhaps the next law or regulation that the government chooses to ignore is very one that protects you, your family, or your cherished loved ones.  Greenlee County is committed to following the law, and we invite all to participate in the decision-making process when these issues come before the Board of Supervisors.  We likewise encourage you to contact the Governor’s office and express your feelings about orders and regulations with which you disagree.”

“I am deeply sorry that a youth event was canceled and that families who gathered to watch their girls play ball were unable to complete the event at Greenlee County Duncan ball field.  The decision to stop the event has started many important discussions that were overdue.”   

“I have sat down with both Chairman Lunt and the organizer of the event to begin to discuss ways to move forward positively.  Let me make this perfectly clear, we want County facilities to be used, but we must ensure to the greatest extent possible, that public facilities are protected and that people using the facilities are safe.  We have also begun a review of our internal processes to make the use of County facilities more accessible and more consistent.  We have plenty of work to do in that regard, but we are committed to getting it done.   If you would like to discuss this matter further or have questions about other events, I would be happy to discuss them with you.  Please email me at drapier@greenlee.az.us or call at (928) 865-2072 or (928) 292-0015.”

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