Tallies kept by Tarrant County commissioners showed overwhelming citizen opposition to extending the countywide mask mandate into February 2021.

Days before Thanksgiving, by a vote of 4 to 0, commissioners in Tarrant County authorized their spokesman—County Judge Glen Whitley—to extend the county’s mask mandate to February 28. This was done by renewing the county’s declaration of emergency.

Commissioner Roy Brooks (D) was absent.

The extension prompted a strong rebuke from Republican Party of Texas Chair Allen West, who called for the Texas legislature to end “executive overreach.”

Around that time, The Texan asked commissioners what kind of feedback they were receiving, only to be told comments were being collected. Commissioner J.D. Johnson (R) asked his staff not to reveal how many were for or against extending the mask mandate.

Texas Scorecard sent an open records request to the commissioners court, requesting “records [from November 17, 2020, to present] in the possession of all county commissioners and the county judge corresponding to tallies of calls and/or messages for or against the county mask order.”

On December 9, the county responded with documentation showing 399 contacts against extension—and three emails. Only five contacts are recorded as being in favor of the mandate.

To protect the citizens listed, their contact information has been withheld.

Like other local officials across Texas recently, Whitley was at the center of a controversy after photos emerged of him not following his own COVID guidance and mask mandate. In response, 2017 Conservative Leader Award winner Joel Starnes advised citizens to practice “peaceful noncompliance” with coronavirus mandates.

When asked about the photos of Whitley, Commissioner Gary Fickes (R) replied:

It’s not my job to watch Judge Whitley or his family.

The 87th Legislative Session starts on January 12, 2021. Citizens concerned about local government overreach may contact their elected state representative and state senator.

Tarrant County voters may contact their county commissioners.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Brooks: 817-370-4500rcbrooks@tarrantcounty.com
Precinct 2 Commissioner Devan Allen: 817-248-6099DJAllen2@tarrantcounty.comcommissionerprecinct2@tarrantcounty.com
Precinct 3 Commissioner Gary Fickes: 817-248-6295gfickes@tarrantcounty.com
Precinct 4 Commissioner JD Johnson: 817-238-4400commissionerpct4admin@tarrantcounty.com

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.