Lt. Gov. Forest says he’s suing Gov. Cooper for violating Emergency Management Act

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Lt. Gov. Dan Forest plans to sue Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration for violating the Emergency Management Act, according to a Thursday statement from Forest.

“The Governor has repeatedly ignored the law, enacting mandates that selectively target the businesses and citizens of North Carolina without concurrence from a majority of the Council of State,” the statement read in part.

The crux of Forest’s complaint is that executive orders made by Cooper since March do not allow him or other members of the Council of State to fulfill their oaths to uphold the state’s laws.

Forest, in his letter to Cooper, also asked for the statute to be waived that would require him to be represented by Attorney General Josh Stein.

“It is my position that the Attorney General has a conflict of interest in that his office assisted in the drafting of the Executive Orders at issue,” the letter read. “I also understand the budget crunch brought about by the COVID-19 shutdown, and rather than employing outside counsel, I plan on using my in-house general counsel.”

On Wednesday, Cooper extended Phase Two of reopening North Carolina to at least July 17. He also issued a statewide mask mandate.

Forest will challenge Cooper in the 2020 North Carolina gubernatorial election.

Dory MacMillan, a spokesperson for Cooper, wrote in an email to CBS 17, “There’s no room for politics during a pandemic. The Governor will continue to be guided by science and the law as he works every day with public health experts to keep North Carolinians safe.”

When Cooper began putting restrictions in place in March, emails show he sought the input of members of the Council of State. However, a majority objected. The council is comprised of the ten statewide elected officials. Among them, six are Republicans and four are Democrats.  

Cooper cited another provision of the state’s Emergency Management Act in moving forward, which notes the governor can act when “local control of the emergency is insufficient to assure adequate protection for lives and property.”

 “The Governor is taking action to protect the health and safety of North Carolinians and does not need concurrence. The Governor and the Secretary of DHHS have the authority to do this under state public health and emergency powers law,” a press release from the governor’s office stated on March 17.

Forest’s announcement came the same day the General Assembly took up a bill that would require the governor to get concurrence from the Council of State during an emergency that lasts longer than 30 days and impacts at least 67 out of the state’s 100 counties.

“We didn’t set up this kind of dictatorship where one person speaks and has that authority, but we’ve put it to a council of ten elected officials to make sure that that’s in line with the voters and the best interest of the state of North Carolina,” said Sen. Ralph Hise (R-47th).

Various bills the General Assembly has passed in recent weeks to try to reopen businesses would require Cooper to get concurrence from the Council of State to reinstate restrictions if necessary due to the spread of COVID-19. Cooper has vetoed some of those bills while others still await action.

“The reason we elected him as governor is so that he can be nimble and be able to respond to emergency situations, whether it’s a hurricane or whether it’s a pandemic,” said Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake). “I think any efforts by this General Assembly to handicap him will, frankly, do long-term harm to our ability as a state to respond quickly.”

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