Talks mount to disband Hillsborough Co.’s EPG amid coronavirus crisis

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County’s Emergency Policy Group (EPG) has been front and center during the coronavirus crisis.

It is made up of eight members: three county commissioners, three local mayors, a school board member, and the sheriff.

But, in recent days, there have been talks that the EPG could become a thing of the past, at least during this particular emergency.

“A declared emergency does not give you a right to run rough shots over the United States Constitution. And I’ll be watching. And other attorneys will be watching,” said Patrick Leduc, who threatened to sue the county back in April over its coronavirus-related curfew.

Leduc pounced on the group for its decisions on that curfew, a mask mandate, and the classification of essential businesses.

He even pointed to an 8 On Your Side report where he claims the chairman, Les Miller, contradicted himself on the county’s curfew. That curfew was set in April, then taken back by the group a few days later.

“He says, if you walk your dog, that’s not an essential activity, you violate the curfew. The curfew comes out the next day. Guess what? Walking your dog is one of the exceptions,” Leduc said.

The idea of disbanding the group was not mentioned by members during Thursday’s meeting, but it came up during a call with reporters after.

“So I’m simply asking next week that at the county commission meeting is that the board of county commissioner have a discussion. We’re not making any, we might make a determination of what we want to do at that time. We have to have a proper hearing first and foremost to determine what they want to do,” Miller said.

He said the EPG has been around since the 1980s and has a chief obligation to deal with hurricanes. It was put in play in March during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

It has been contentious as well, with residents calling in at the beginning of each meeting and sounding off, sometimes against decisions.

During Thursday’s meeting, one man identified as Jason, went after three group members.

“There are three core corrupt members, and if you had any shame I wouldn’t be calling about it,” the man said, before being cut-off by the chairman.

“Excuse me! Excuse me, sir. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me, sir!” Miller said, telling the caller to refrain from personal attacks.

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