Georgia governor withdraws lawsuit challenging Atlanta mayor's mask mandate
Posted August 13, 2020 3:33 p.m. EDT
CNN — Georgia's Republican governor is withdrawing a lawsuit he filed against Atlanta's Democratic mayor and City Council in an effort to block restrictions the city put in place to fight the coronavirus, including a citywide mask mandate.
"In light of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' concession regarding the city's Phase One roll-back plan and following her refusal in mediation to further negotiate a compromise, the Attorney General's Office has filed to withdraw our pending lawsuit," Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement Thursday, adding he will instead address the issue in a new executive order this coming Saturday.
"I sued the City of Atlanta to immediately stop the shuttering of local businesses and protect local workers from economic instability. For weeks, we have worked in good faith with Mayor Bottoms, and she agreed to abandon the city's Phase One roll-back plan, which included business closures and a shelter in place order," Kemp said. "Unfortunately, the Mayor has made it clear that she will not agree to a settlement that safeguards the rights of private property owners in Georgia. Given this stalemate in negotiations, we will address this very issue in the next Executive Order."
CNN has reached out to Bottoms' office for comment.
Kemp's decision to renege on the lawsuit represents a dramatic twist in his battle with Bottoms over her response to the pandemic. Last month, the mayor told CNN that she believed the lawsuit was "personal retaliation" because the governor "did not sue the city of Atlanta. He filed suit against myself and our city council personally."
Kemp had argued that that the mayor's mask mandate violated his emergency order prohibiting local action from being more prohibitive than the state's requirements. Under her order, not wearing a mask within Atlanta's city limits is punishable by a fine and even up to six months in jail.
"Once again, if the mayor actually wants to flatten the curve in Atlanta, she should start enforcing state restrictions, which she has failed to do. We ask citizens and businesses alike to comply with the terms of the governor's order, which was crafted in conjunction with state public health officials," Kemp's office said in a statement last month.
In defending his lawsuit last month, Kemp said at a news conference that he's "confident that Georgians don't need a mandate to do the right thing."
"Mayor Bottoms' mask mandate cannot be enforced," he added. "But her decision to shutter businesses and undermine economic growth is devastating. ... I refuse to sit back and watch as disastrous policies threaten the lives and livelihoods of our citizens."
The state of Georgia currently has more than 226,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and has reported more than 4,400 deaths from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.