Madison prep coach, others warned after violating Gov. Evers’ orders

MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison city officials say the coach of Madison West High School's football team and the hosts of small parties were sent warning letters after violating Governor Evers' state order on gatherings.

The issuance of the cease and desist letters was first reported by the Wisconsin State Journal.

Assistant Madison City Attorney Marci Paulsen says coach Brad Murphy watched as more than a dozen players carried out an impromptu practice on the school's field Apr. 7.

"I was shocked and saddened that that was happening on school property, in my opinion being supervised by someone working through the school district," Paulsen tells 27 News.

Paulsen says Murphy pleaded ignorance to city officials.

"He has reached out and said he didn't understand the order," Paulsen tells 27 News. Paulsen says Murphy argued he believed there were fewer than ten teens participating. State orders say no more than ten people can gather, and even numbers smaller than that must practice social distancing and be at least six feet apart to inhibit spread of the coronavirus.

Paulsen say the state rules go beyond what Murphy argued was an interpretation of how many youth were involved. "Specifically, the orders mention football, and says it is prohibited," according to Paulsen.

"That one was shocking to me, that that occurred and there was so many kids involved," Paulsen tells 27 News in explaining why a warning letter was issued to Murphy instead of attempting to informally educate him on state orders, as she says has been done in many other situations.

Murphy deferred to the Madison Metropolitan School District when asked for comment by 27 News.

"MMSD recognizes this gathering...for an impromptu practice, was not in alignment with district priorities and in poor judgment...MMSD is taking this very seriously," says Madison Schools spokesperson Timothy LeMonds.

Paulsen says the warning letters to Murphy, hosts of small parties, and two businesses resulted from complaint follow by Madison police officers. "They ask for voluntary compliance," she says. Madison Acting Police Chief Vic Wahl says compliance has been the community norm. But he says officers are prepared to go beyond education and warnings if need be. "The order is just that - and order - and it is enforceable by arrest or citation," Wahl says. "Adhering to these restrictions is undoubtedly inconvenient and difficult, but doing so is critical to the health and safety of our community."

Paulsen says Madison and Dane County Public Health receives as many as fifteen complaints a day, many involving alleged non-essential businesses remaining open. She says most of the complaints are resolved through negotiation, although the subjects of some complaints have been ordered to close.

Paulsen says one business, Madison's Amani Art, was ordered to close April 1 as being non-essential, but as with some firms, insisted its operation was vital.

"I have a team of prosecutors and we answer the questions, and say, 'You need to cease operations,' " Paulsen explains. "Sometimes they say, 'No, this is why.' Sometimes, we dig and decide, 'You're right.' "

As for the art business, Paulsen says company reprentatives made the case they had made a transition. "At the time, they weren't an essential business. But now they shifted to meeting the needs."

"Amanti Art...has introduced a new product to help meet the demand for health safety amidst the the global COVID-19 pandemic," says company representative Suzanne Warborg. "The idea of a framed sneeze guard was brought up by one of the company's employees and the team worked together to develop and launch the product in under a week," she says. "The local Waunakee and Cottage Grove Piggly Wiggly stores helped test the early prototypes and confirm that the product was working well. Online sales have already proven demand is nationwide," Warborg says.

Paulsen says enforcing the order limiting gatherings has involved intervention with places of worship. Emails released to 27 News show Sun Prairie Police and Madison and Dane County Public Health officials were concerned about a Lutheran congregation's plan to distribute communion to worshippers at the church Thursday. Emails show the plan was approved after church leaders specified only eight people at a time would enter the church to receive the sacrament, and subsequent worshippers would wait at least twenty minutes before being allowed to enter in groups of eight to also partake of communion.

Paulsen says she hopes the celebration of Easter Sunday will involve compliance with state orders to ensure community health.

More at WKOW 27 News

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