WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order not only put a stop to local governments collecting fines from businesses cited for violating rules to protect against the spread of coronavirus, but it also orders those who paid fines to get their money back.
Palm Beach County's legal team is reviewing Tuesday's order to determine what to do with the money collected for mask mandate violations and other citations.
The owner of the Anchor Inn near Lantana had several fines after sheriff's deputies frequently patrolled the restaurant this spring.
"They were coming out here just to kind of see what was going on and kind of see were there laws being broken, so to say," owner Rob Delcorio said.
Deputies thought laws were being broken, citing the restaurant for 13 violations, including having too many people during a time when, under county statute, capacity was to be restricted.
"(It was) $600, $700 in fines," Delcorio said. "I mean, honestly, it's not a ton of money. It's not a little bit of money, but it's not a ton of money."
But he and dozens of other business owners may get their money back.
DeSantis' order remits any fines imposed between March 1, 2020, and the present.
"The governor is playing politics with the pandemic, yet again," state Rep. Omari Hardy, D-West Palm Beach, said, calling the governor's order dangerous. "And now that these local leaders have saved Ron DeSantis' hide, he's undermining them and throwing them under the bus and pandering by forgiving all these fines, by taking away the one incentive that they had to ensure that people wear masks out in public."
But at the Anchor Inn, Delcorio applauds the governor's order, even if the restaurant does not get the money back the business paid in fines.
"It is what it is," he said. "Water under the bridge at this point."
County government officials along the Treasure Coast said they did not fine any businesses for violating mask mandates and other rules.
Contact 5 asked Palm Beach County for the number of citations and the amount collected in fines but did not hear back.