McHenry County vows not to prosecute bars, restaurants for serving indoors — but Pritzker asks prosecutor to ‘follow the law’

McHenry County vows not to prosecute bars, restaurants for serving indoors — but Pritzker asks prosecutor to ‘follow the law’

McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally, left, in July; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, right, earlier this month. | John Starks/Daily Herald; Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick D. Kenneally said that the mitigations rested on an executive order that he believes his office isn’t authorized to enforce.

McHenry County’s top prosecutor says he won’t enforce the indoor dining ban that Gov. J.B. Pritzker implemented as part of the state’s latest efforts to rein in rising coronavirus infections and deaths.

But McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick D. Kenneally on Wednesday said he would enforce capacity limits and laws requiring patrons and employees to wear masks and social distance.

Indoor dining was banned statewide after Tier 3 mitigations took effect last Friday. Since then, the McHenry County Public Health Department referred 11 complaints to the state’s attorney’s office about restaurants violating indoor dining restrictions, the Northwest Herald reported.

But Kenneally said in a statement that the mitigations rested on an executive order that he believes his office isn’t authorized to enforce. Kenneally also questioned if Pritzker’s emergency powers were constitutional under state law.

There “is no provision in the executive orders or the Illinois Emergency Management Act requiring or even authorizing the State’s Attorney’s Office to enforce these orders,” Kenneally said in a statement. “Second, there is the legitimate question, currently being litigated, as to whether the executive orders, which require the Governor to exercise ‘emergency powers,’ are authorized under Illinois law or otherwise constitutional.”

Kenneally said the the dining restrictions could, however, be enforced if they were based on a law passed by the state Legislature.

The Democratic governor responded by saying it was “surprising the state’s attorney’s office doesn’t want to follow the law.

“And other jurisdictions are following the law and prosecuting these fines … for businesses that are failing to follow these mitigations. Or they’re opening their doors, if they’re bars, and spreading the virus willy-nilly at a time when we’re undergoing a terrible second wave of the virus,” Pritzker said.

McHenry County, in Region 9 along with Lake County, has a 13.5% testing positivity rate, and has recorded more than 12,000 positive coronavirus cases and 143 deaths.

“I would hope that officers of the court, like state’s attorneys, would follow the law and do the right thing,” Pritzker said. “Because people are getting sick. If you don’t do the right thing, more people will get sick.”