Elon Musk Sues Alameda County, Threatens To Move Tesla HQ

Nick Garber

FREMONT, CA — Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla, added another chapter to his famously erratic internet presence Saturday morning by announcing he planned to sue Alameda County and move his company's operations away from California, over the government's continued coronavirus-related shutdown on the company's manufacturing.

The lawsuit, which Musk first threatened in a tweet, was filed hours later by Tesla's attorneys in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California. The suit seeks an injunction against the county's stay-home order, and asks the court to strike it down as inconsistent with Gov. Gavin Newsom's more relaxed order, announced this week.

Musk announced his plan to sue Saturday after a county spokeswoman warned the company Friday that it "must not reopen" its Fremont factory, following reports that Tesla planned to restart "limited operations" at the manufacturing plant.

"Frankly, this is the final straw," Musk tweeted Saturday morning. "Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately. If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be [dependent] on how Tesla is treated in the future."

"The unelected & ignorant 'Interim Health Officer' of Alameda is acting contrary to the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense," Musk tweeted, apparently referring to Alameda County Interim Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan.

Tesla claims county violated Constitution

California this week eased its statewide stay-home order, allowing some manufacturers to reopen along with retailers and some warehouses. However, six Bay Area counties, including Alameda County, chose to leave their stricter orders in place, including a continued ban on manufacturing.

Newsom said this week that counties were free to keep their stricter orders in place if they wished. But in Tesla's complaint, the company claims Alameda County has "created a legal quagmire by wrongly declaring that its own orders trump the state- level orders."

"Alameda County’s power-grab not only defies the Governor’s Order, but offends the federal and California constitutions," the company's attorneys wrote.

In a statement following Musk's comments, the Alameda County Public Health Department said it has been collaborating productively with Tesla's team in Fremont to develop a plan allowing the company to reopen while protecting workers' safety.

"The team at Tesla has been responsive to our guidance and recommendations, and we look forward to coming to an agreement on an appropriate safety plan very soon," the county said.

In a separate statement, Fremont Mayor Lily Mei encouraged the county to consider allowing Tesla and other manufacturers to reopen, saying they could operate with "strict safety and social distancing practices."

"As the local shelter-in-place order continues without provisions for major manufacturing activity, such as Tesla, to resume, I am growing concerned about the potential implications for our regional economy," Mei said.

Tesla has not responded to a request for comment by Patch.

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, Musk has voiced opinions about the coronavirus crisis at odds with public health guidance. In March, he tweeted that the "coronavirus panic is dumb," and kept Tesla's Fremont factory open even after the Bay Area issued its shelter-in-place order.

Musk has also found himself in hot water over his promise to donate more than 1,000 ventilators to treat coronavirus patients at California hospitals. Those ventilators never arrived, according to state health officials, and the devices he did purchase were BiPAP machines, used to treat sleep apnea patients and poorly suited to patients with severe COVID-19 cases.

Full coronavirus coverage: Coronavirus In California: What To Know

This article originally appeared on the Fremont Patch