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A California emergency management official basked in the sun during a family beach trip despite the state’s shelter-in-place order, he admitted this week.
Chris Godley, the director of Emergency Management and leader of Sonoma County’s Emergency Operation Center, took a Saturday trip with his family to an unnamed, seemingly empty beach in Sonoma County.
Photos of the family trip were posted to Facebook. “Road tripping up the coast. Beautiful drive and nice views. Family beach time together. Grateful for fresh air and the ocean,” the post read.
Godley expressed regret when confronted by the Press Democrat. “I own this,” he said. “It was a day off for my family. Any reasoning or justification is going to sound thin.”
A statewide shelter-in-place order took effect on March 18 to combat the coronavirus pandemic, limiting the operation of all but essential businesses and prohibiting travel except for that deemed to be essential.
On March 23, Sonoma County’s top public health official closed all parks and beaches after weekend crowds swarmed the coast.
Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins was appalled by Godley’s nonessential day trip.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” she said. “In county government, we need to lead by example. We can’t possibly expect the community to hold themselves accountable if we don’t hold ourselves accountable, as well.”
Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Susan Gorin said it was a learning experience, but it was time to move on.
“It’s certainly not what I want to model for my community at this time,” Godley further explained.
“I seek the understanding and mercy of my community. The opportunity to grant just a moment of freedom to my family -- given that they rarely see me -- is not a justification, but it’s what was going through my mind at the time.”
Just before Godley’s trip, law enforcement agencies pledged to step up enforcement of the lockdown. Citations will be issued for nonessential businesses that refuse to close or to people found loitering in parks.
Supervisor David Rabbitt defended Godley, citing his hard work. He called for more lax rules for public servants like Godley or health care professionals.
“If this was the doctor, in the midst of a battle for six days, and had one day off with family, would it be a sin?” Rabbitt said. “Would that be a story? Or is it only a story for Chris Godley who works for the county?”
“I want my top people who are responding to this crisis to be of sound mind, body and health,” Rabbitt added. “And if that means going to the coast to feel better, I’m all for it.”