the director of Emergency Management in Sonoma County, enjoying a day at an otherwise empty beach with his family were posted to Facebook and later shared with a local news outlet.
The Press Democrat first reported on the photos.
“Road tripping up the coast. Beautiful drive and nice views. Family beach time together. Grateful for fresh air and the ocean,” the photo caption stated.
When confronted on the photos, Mr Godley noted there was no justifiable explanation for him defying the shelter-in-place order.
“I own this. It was a day off for my family. Any reasoning or justification is going to sound thin,” he said.
A Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said she was ‘disappointed’ by Mr Godley’s trip.
“In county government, we need to lead by example. We can’t possibly expect the community to hold themselves accountable if we don’t hold ourselves accountable as well,” she said.
The shelter-in-place in Sonoma County went into effect on 18 March and prohibits all business and travel except for essential needs. On 23 March, the county closed parks and beaches in response to large crowds gathering along the Sonoma coast.
In recent days, law enforcement officials in the county have been increasing enforcement of the orders, which includes issuing warnings or citations to nonessential businesses that remain open or to individuals found breaking the order.
Thus far, no one has been cited specifically and solely for defying the shelter-in-place order.
Another Sonoma County Supervisor, David Rabbitt, handwaved Mr Godley’s decision to defy the shelter-in-place order, arguing Mr Rabbitt should receive special consideration because he is a healthcare professional.
“If this was the doctor, in the midst of a battle for six days, and had one day off with family, would it be a sin? Would that be a story? Or is it only a story for Chris Godley who works for the county?” he said.
Responding to inquiry from the Press Democrat, Mr Rabbitt suggested that a county official violating an emergency order passed down by the county and expected to be followed by all residents was only a story because “it makes for a splashy headline.”
Most officials who spoke with the Press Democrat praised Mr Godley’s work and characterised him as a superb public servant. Mr Godley was remorseful for violating the orders.
“I seek the understanding and mercy of my community. The opportunity to grant just a moment of freedom to my family – given that they rarely see me – is not a justification, but it’s what was going through my mind at the time,” he said.
Sonoma County Administrator Sheryl Bratton – who supervises Godley – said that he was a “consummate professional and public servant” and that it was important that he and other officials who are working long hours and making difficult decisions “get time off.” She said that time off shouldn’t include violating shelter-in-place orders.