ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ill. – The director of St. Clair County’s Emergency Management Agency, Herb Simmons, warned residents this week of rising COVID numbers.
“There are people out there that are so insensitive to the fact to realize how serious this virus is,” he said.
However, you’ll find a different side of Simmons on YouTube, in which the county official tasked with emergency preparedness runs an independent wrestling promotion and can be seen in groups not adhering to rules on mask wearing and social distancing.
FOX 2 asked Simmons about the apparent double-standard and whether he’s risking the health of his fellow citizens who are facing tighter restrictions. His answer? He said he took his wrestling company to Tennessee because he doesn’t have to follow the same rules there.
But if it’s not ok to do that here, why is it ok to do somewhere else?”
“I have no idea. I guess because their mitigation is different,” Simmons said. “Each state has their own guidelines that they’re going by. Each county down there is probably—is different—than what it is here.”
But the question remains: if it’s not okay in Illinois, why is it okay for Simmons to run an event elsewhere?
“We don’t do that here because the state says we can’t do it here,” he said.
Freeburg Village Administrator Tony Funderburg is frustrated.
“I think it’s one of the most disgusting things I’ve seen,” he said. “There are no consequences anymore.”
Funderburg discussed the matter via Zoom along with five other furious residents.
During the group Zoom, Don Reifschneider, owner of Reifschneider’s Grill and Grape, interjected, “There are none. No.”
Funderburg continued, “I sit here and right behind me on my wall is my code of ethics. I follow it daily. These people (pointing to the others in the Zoom call) have done everything asked of them. They’re the ones being punished.”
They’re business owners, who don’t know how much longer they’ll survive.
“Not only has our business been affected, people’s whole lives have been affected,” said Lani Parker, Valentine’s Restaurant.
“Can someone explain to me what the right thing is?” Reifschneider said. “I don’t know at this point. It’s just been over and over again, they keep shutting us down.”
Eric Trentman from Gary’s Restaurant added, “Our places are cleaner, because we’re wiping and cleaning and doing everything.”
They’re all struggling to survive through restrictions they hear about every day – from a leader – breaking those rules.
Simmons recently said during a COVID briefing, “If we could just get some of those naysayers to expend some of their energy on following team St. Clair and spreading that word.”
We pointed that out to Simmons.
“You’re preaching that, but then you’re not following that,” reporter Chris Hayes said.
“But I do,” Simmons said. “I follow it every day. I don’t leave home without a mask. I don’t go nowhere.”
Simmons said his two trips to Tennessee to run wrestling shows have been the only exceptions.