UTAH COUNTY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A day after he called off a meeting about mandatory school masks,Utah County Commissioner Tanner Ainge spoke to ABC4.

“This was an orchestrated political stunt by Commissioner Lee,” said Ainge. “I feel bad for the people who showed up to voice their concerns about K-12 masks because this just wasn’t the right forum.”

On video, dozens of people are seen gathering in a tight space at the Utah County Commission.

“This is the exact opposite of what we’re supposed to be doing,” Ainge told the crowd on Wednesday. “We are supposed to be physically distancing, wearing masks.”

On Thursday, Ainge told ABC4, “A lot of the guidelines about the building, we had seats taped off so there could be distancing were disregarded. So, it really created for an unsafe environment that I didn’t think would be responsible to continue with.”

The meeting Ainge called off was a public gathering hosted by fellow Commissioner Bill Lee. It was to propose a vote for a “compassionate exemption” from Governor Gary Herbert for the county concerning the statewide school mask mandate.

Ainge’s actions were met with boos from the crowd. Tiffany Barker, who has two school-aged children, attended the meeting.

“I want to stand up and be a voice for the children that they don’t have to wear masks back at school,” said Barker.

She says there’s still too little known about COVID-19 to make such a mandate.

“I think that the science is not there,” said Barker. “I think that there’s contradictory information everyday.”

Ainge, who is a father of five, says he understands the opposition, but he doesn’t understand why the meeting was called in the first place.

He says a decision on whether or not there’s a mask mandate for schools in Alpine’s District isn’t up to the county.

“The fact that we had it on our agenda, we had nothing to do with it,” said Ainge. “That would be like the school board holding a meeting to discuss the appropriate level of funding for the county sheriff’s department.”

Nicole Neuman
Nicole Neuman comes to ABC4 Utah from Nexstar sister station WNCT in Greenville, N.C. where she worked as a reporter and fill-in anchor. During her time at WNCT, Nicole reported on several impactful stories.
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