Radford Council passes gathering ordinance; City’s Commonwealth’s Attorney says he won’t prosecute

Radford City Council on Tuesday adopted a temporary  emergency ordinance banning gatherings of more than 50 people in the city.

The ordinance comes as Radford University welcomes students back to campus for fall classes.

Proponents of the ordinance see it as a way to slow the potential spread of COVID-19 among those RU students who typically attend college parties.

Violators, according to the ordinance, would be subject to a civil fine of $300 for those hosting gatherings of more than 50 people, and $150 for those attending if they ignore police officers’ orders to disperse.

The ordinance goes into effect tonight at midnight and will continue through August.

However, late this afternoon The Patriot learned the city’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, Chris Rehak, has informed city officials his office will not be prosecuting any COVID-19 “emergency” ordinances.

In a letter to city officials, Rehak begins by saying, “As you may know, my office is not obligated to prosecute misdemeanor crimes,” and quoted two sections of the State Code pertaining to the duties of attorneys for the Commonwealth and their assistants.

In closing, Rehak said, “for twenty-plus years I have prosecuted misdemeanor cases and will continue to participate assisting police and representing victims of these crimes. However, for a variety of reasons my office will not be prosecuting any COVID-19 ‘emergency’ Radford City ordinances.”

Rehak continued, “The Radford City Attorney should be consulted about planning, logistics, scheduling court dates and policy questions about warnings, enforcement, liability concerns, citations, etc.”

City council is expected to take up a second ordinance pertaining COVID-19 and the wearing of masks in public when they meet Monday evening.