A planner with a national conservative conference coming to Redmond in April said Deschutes County officials assured him the state’s mask mandate would not be enforced at the event.
But Deschutes County Commissioners Tony DeBone and Patti Adair, Sheriff Shane Nelson and Geoff Hinds, the executive director of the fairgrounds where it will be held, say those promises were never made to Reawaken America Tour.
The tour is a national event featuring a number of conservative speakers, including two high profile headliners: Gen. Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, who was pardoned by Trump after pleading guilty to lying about his connections to a Russian diplomat, and Roger Stone, a Republican operative convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation into Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Trump also pardoned Stone.
The event will be April 1-2 at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center and is run by Clay Clark, the host of a podcast called Thrivetime Show.
In public records obtained by The Bulletin, a planner for the event, Troy Smith, writes in an email to Clark that he “personally talked at length with 2 of the 3 county commissioners, both of whom sit as Republicans” and was assured that the state’s mask mandate would not be enforced.
“I also asked the commissioners about the Deschutes County sheriff’s office on two points and confirmed (1) They will be at our call in the unlikely situation of ANY trouble developing to disrupt the event (2) They have made it known they will NOT enforce the governor’s mask mandate,” Smith wrote.
Smith also said in the email he received assurances that the commissioners and facility manager of the fairgrounds were “comfortable with the event managing their own decisions on masking.”
“They are not going to police this,” Smith wrote in an email from October of last year.
DeBone said that is not the case.
“Those are pretty bold statements. It’s nothing I would say directly,” DeBone said. “Like, ‘Oh yeah don’t worry about the rules we’ll go around it.’ This was not stated by myself.”
DeBone said he received a call from someone from the event, though he could not remember who, who asked him whether as a commissioner he would be in a position to cancel or block the event from happening at a county facility.
DeBone said he said no, as he saw it like any other facility rental at the fairgrounds.
“The expectation is that they’re just like anybody,” DeBone said, with regards to following COVID-19 regulations.
Hinds said the fairgrounds expects and requires all events to comply with all COVID-19 related rules, and suggested Smith’s statements could be a misunderstanding about Oregon’s mask laws. For example, people are allowed to take off a mask indoors when eating and drinking.
Hinds said the fairgrounds works with every event to adhere to a safety plan, which can mean working together to provide face masks, sanitizer and signs outlining rules.
“No event is an exception to be different or above the law,” Hinds said.
In a statement on behalf of Nelson, Deschutes County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Jayson Janes said the sheriff has not spoken with anyone from the Reawaken America Tour. Janes reiterated the sheriff’s focus on education about masking rather than enforcement.
In a text message, Adair said, “Of course the mask mandate will be enforced. Our fairgrounds follow OHA rules. Hopefully by April 1 our county and country will be in a better position regarding Covid-19.”
Smith, the planner, did not respond to a request for comment.
The event includes numerous Trump supporters, ministers, vaccine skeptics and doctors known for spreading election and pandemic-related misinformation.
The event is advertised to sell 3,500 tickets at $250 a ticket for general admission, as previously reported by Central Oregon Daily News.