A woman is facing a criminal charge in Clark County District Court for allegedly violating Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, when she reopened her Vancouver pet grooming shop in May.
Court records show Kelly C. Carroll, 61, of Battle Ground faces a single count of violating an emergency order proclamation, which was filed June 5. Vancouver defense attorney Angus Lee is representing Carroll and entered a not-guilty plea on her behalf last week.
According to an affidavit of probable cause, the case revolves around Carroll operating her business, The PetBiz at 5620 N.E. Gher Road, in spite of the governor’s order, specifically Proclamation 20-25.
The essential activities permitted under the proclamation included obtaining necessary supplies and services for family and pets, such as food and household items. It also allowed for activities essential for family and pets, “including things such as seeking medical or behavioral health or emergency services and obtaining medical supplies or medication.”
Caring for a family member or pet was permitted, too, in another residence or to transport them for “essential health and safety activities,” the proclamation states.
The affidavit says Carroll’s grooming shop is in the non-essential category, meaning it was not eligible to continue doing business while the stay-at-home order was in place. Carroll publicized her intent to reopen against the governor’s order and organized a May 16 rally at her shop, according to the affidavit.
“(She) went through with her plan and held the reopening rally on that date. (Vancouver police) detectives estimated over 100 people attended the rally,” the affidavit says.
A Vancouver police officer contacted Carroll at her shop three days later. The shop was open, and the officer observed a customer pay for services with a credit card, court records say. Carroll told the officer she “opened her business because she needed money for food and housing,” the affidavit says.
Vancouver City Prosecutor Kevin McClure, who filed the charge against Carroll, said he could not comment on a pending case .
Lee said his client has no criminal history. If convicted, Carroll faces one day shy of a year in jail and up to $5,000 in fines, he said.
“We look forward to trial in this matter,” Lee told The Columbian.
The defense attorney said he believes that Carroll’s case is the first criminal charge in the state for violating the governor’s order. The Washington Attorney General’s Office announced May 19 that it filed consumer protection lawsuits, civil court actions, against two gyms for violating the order.
“The business owners, Michael J. Baker and Shane D. Cowhig of Fitness 101 Team (in) Puyallup, more commonly known as Northwest Fitness Co., and Michael and Richard Jellison of Power Alley Fitness, more commonly known as PA Fitness, in Arlington, received multiple warnings about remaining open,” the attorney general’s office said.
A spokeswoman said the attorney general’s office is not tracking criminal cases alleging violations of the governor’s order. Mike Faulk, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said the office has no way to verify whether it’s the first such criminal case, but it’s the first he’s heard of that was not initiated by the state.
‘Lack of state support’
Carroll has been raising money on GoFundMe. On the fundraising page, she said she opened her business early due to a “lack of state support through their promises of unemployment and according to my constitutional rights to work, feed and provide for our family.”
Carroll wrote she was close to losing her home and business.
When visited by officers in May, “I told the police it is not against the law for me to work and support myself and my family. I did say that it was criminal to arrest good citizens who want to go to work and operate a business. Large corporations are flooded everyday with 400 plus people at a time in the store shopping, but small businesses who serve a handful of clients are not allowed to work?” Carroll wrote.
As of Thursday afternoon, Carroll had raised $6,188 toward her $10,000 goal. The funds will be used to cover attorney’s fees and “mounting debt” caused by the pandemic and subsequent shutdown of business, according to the fundraising page.