HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana is dropping legal action filed last year against five businesses in northwestern Montana accused of violating public health orders meant to limit the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Greg Gianforte said Thursday.
As part of a settlement filed in the Flathead County district court, the businesses are also dropping counterclaims against the state. The state is paying the defendants' more than $94,000 in attorney costs, the settlement states.
The lawsuit was filed by the state health department under former Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, last October. It accused the businesses of failing to adequately enforce the statewide mask mandate.
Gianforte, a Republican, promised to end the legal action soon after taking office in January. “We already have enough federal overreach that we don’t need the state joining in,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
The businesses involved are the Remington Bar, Sykes Diner and Scotty’s Bar in Kalispell, and the Ferndale Market and Your Turn Mercantile near Bigfork. They filed a counter lawsuit in November claiming the agency selectively targeted them and hurt them financially, officials said.
Separately, a case filed by Gallatin County against the Rocking R Bar for failing to follow COVID-19 mitigation rules was dismissed last month after Gianforte eliminated several health mandates put in place by his predecessor, NBC Montana reported.