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La Crosse man files suit against Governor, City Clerk

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - A lawsuit over face covering requirements is filed in La Crosse County Circuit Court against Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and La Crosse City Clerk Teri Lehrke.

The suit, while dealing with a local interpretation of the governor's mask mandate issued in July, has broader implications for the executive order and subsequent emergency order regarding the mask requirement.

You can read the lawsuit below. Users of our news app can read it here.

The suit centers around a La Crosse man, Nicholas Newman, who said he was fired as a poll worker for the August primary after he showed up that day without wearing a mask.

The suit said Newman has a medical condition that prevents him from wearing a face covering and is exempt from the mask requirement.

On August 11, the suit contends Lehrke dismissed Newman despite his medical exemption. It said, in part, "Despite the fact that Mr. Newman is exempt from the face covering requirement of Emergency Order No. 1, Clerk Lehrke told Mr. Newman that both “state law” and “the Governor’s executive order” required him to wear a face covering."

In the suit, it stated that "Clerk Lehrke told him that utilizing the exemption from the face covering requirement of Emergency Order No. 1 is a “neglection of your duties.”

The document later said that Lehrke banned Newman from working in the future at city polling locations.

The suit charges that Lehrke "wrongfully applied" the emergency order to Newman and that he was, and continues to be harmed by the ban on working at the polls.

Newman and his attorneys ask that the court reverse the ban on Newman's poll work for him or any other person with an exemption.

The lead attorney for Newman, Joseph Voiland of Veterans Liberty Law, said that the lawsuit bar Governor Evers from issuing any continuation of the emergency orders.

In a statement issued Friday, Voiland said, "Today we filed suit against Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, asking the court to enjoin the Governor from issuing any new "emergency" order without the required legislative approval. This governor is ruling, he is not governing.

The American system of government contains three branches, not one. For those who might say the governor must do "something" -- the founders divided power for a reason: they had left behind a King's rule. Power is divided on purpose so that it cannot be exercised so easily.

This case is not about whether masks are good or bad, or whether they should be mandated for some. This case is about whether a single individual can claim the power to mandate that himself. Tony Evers is our Governor, he is not our King."

Online court records show that the lawsuit was assigned to Judge Todd Bjerke. The record also shows that one of Newman's attorney's, Bernardo Cueto, filed paperwork for substitution of judge on Wednesday.

There was not immediate word from the city attorney's office or governor's office in response to the lawsuit.

This is a developing story. WXOW will update it as new information becomes available.

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