El Paso’s mayor goes public in his dispute with county judge over shutdown order
EL PASO, Texas -- El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, speaking at a news conference Thursday afternoon, publicly aired grievances with County Judge Ricardo Samaniego over his shutdown order to battle Covid-19.
Margo said the judge did not speak with him before deciding to extend the order, which is now set to run until Dec. 1, although he acknowledged that the judge "pre-empts me."
"The biggest frustration for me personally" is not being informed and "Judge Samaniego has yet to reach out," the mayor professed in a statement that was immediately disputed by the judge.
Samaniego, in a text to ABC-7, said he was going to attempt to call into the virtual news conference "to challenge the mayor on reaching out to me."
The judge later told reporters that city staff blocked his call. Margo contended "we did invite him to be here" at this news conference.
The contentiousness between the top elected officials for the city and county played out amid a pending decision from a state appeals court as to the validity of the judge's order.
The Eighth Court of Appeals was expected to rule by day's end on a challenge to a lower court ruling that upheld Samaniego's authority to issue the closure order. That order directs all non-essential businesses and services to shut down.
For now, an El Paso police official said the shutdown order was being enforced by officers based on the lower court's decision.
Margo spent much of his remarks talking about the harm to small businesses in the community that would be done by a prolonged economic shut down.
"What is the county's plan for economic recovery?" Margo asked, in what appeared to be a question publicly directed at Samaniego.
He said 26% of all small businesses in El Paso had already closed down during the pandemic and feared more would go out of business permanently.