Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins defied Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates, having Republican Commissioner J.J. Koch escorted out of a commissioners court meeting for refusing to wear a mask.

During the commissioners meeting on Tuesday morning, Jenkins asked those not wearing a mask to leave the courtroom by 9:30 a.m. Koch was the only commissioner not wearing a mask.

After 9:30 a.m., Jenkins turned to Koch and asked, “Do you refuse to wear your mask?”

“Yep,” Koch replied. “You do not have the authority [to mandate wearing a mask], under the governor’s order.”

On July 29, Abbott issued an executive order that consolidated several previous executive orders and ended a prior stipulation allowing counties with high hospitalization rates to bring back COVID-19 restrictions. The order states, “No person may be required by any jurisdiction to wear or to mandate the wearing of a face covering.” A 2020 randomized controlled trial—considered “the gold standard in medical research”—found masks made no “statistically significant” difference in protecting against the virus.

Koch accused Jenkins of being “abusive” of his power, as well as being “demeaning and condescending” to the elected commissioners. Jenkins said he didn’t mean to be, and he asked Koch if he would volunteer to join the meeting virtually.

“I don’t think that’s the appropriate thing to do. I don’t think you have the authority to order me to do that,” Koch shot back.

Jenkins asked the bailiff to escort Koch to his office so he could join the meeting virtually. In response, Koch asked Jenkins to confirm he would not allow him to “complete [his] elected duty,” to which Jenkins responded, “We want you to complete your elected duty here. If you refuse to wear a mask, you can complete it virtually upstairs.” Koch left without incident.

“This is yet another display of political theater where Judge Jenkins is spreading fear-porn and flouting the governor’s orders, which underscore our right to breathe freely,” resident Lynn Davenport told Texas Scorecard.

Jenkins and Commissioners Koch, John Wiley Price (D), Elba Garcia (D), and Theresa Daniel (D) did not respond to media inquiries before publication time.

When asked how Abbott should respond to Jenkins’ action, Davenport was firm. “Abbott should put Jenkins in his place. The law is on our side, and he should fight lawlessness with the law.”

This isn’t the only incident in Dallas County regarding mask mandates since the issuance of Abbott’s recent executive order.

District Judge Maricela Moore, the local administrative judge, issued an order requiring masks at the George Allen and Frank Crowley courthouses, as well as the Henry Wade building.

Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment before publication time.

Robert Montoya

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


The Deafening Silence of Fear

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