After a photo surfaced of a North Texas county judge not wearing a mask at a wedding, photos emerged this week of social distancing being ignored in the very building he and the commissioners wield authority over.
Back in October, controversy erupted after a photo emerged on social media of Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins not wearing a mask at a wedding. Jenkins is among the loudest local officials in Texas who is pushing mask mandates and encouraging social distancing in response to the Chinese coronavirus.
Jenkins’ office responded by giving another publication two photos of him wearing a mask at the wedding, claiming he briefly removed it to officiate and was following county protocols at the time.
This week, more photos emerged on social media of social distancing not being practiced within the Dallas County Commissioners Court, where Jenkins presides.
On December 1, the county’s controversial elections administrator, Toni Pippins-Poole, was honored and recognized in the commissioners courtroom as her retirement was announced.
From the photos, it is clear that people were not staying 6 feet apart from each other.
Jenkins participated remotely but did nothing to enforce the very policy he promotes to citizens.
At one point, Pippins-Poole asked Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia (D) if it would be alright for staff to gather for a photograph. “Yes, of course,” Garcia said.
Seen in the photo are Garcia and fellow Commissioners Dr. Theresa Daniel (D) and John Wiley Price (D).
The support of Garcia and Daniel enabled Jenkins to pass the county’s second mask mandate. Price and Commissioner J.J. Koch (R) have strongly opposed a number of Jenkins’ mandates.
Texas Scorecard sent press inquiries to Garcia, Daniel, and Jenkins about no action being taken regarding the lack of social distancing in the commissioners court.
No response from Jenkins was received by publication time.
“[A]ll the people that I saw in the courtroom had a mask,” Garcia replied.
“In looking [through] the CDC recommendations as well as the information shared by Judge Jenkins, there is much discussion of how to conduct business safely,” Daniel replied. “Safe environments include paying attention to social distancing, the use of masks, washing your hands, sanitation of common areas, etc. All of those recommendations are followed in the Commissioners Court.”
“It is recommended that if persons cannot maintain the 6-ft distancing that all would be masked and limit direct contact,” she continued. “The photos show that all were masked. Being familiar with what was happening, I know that the group photos were for a very limited time. I appreciate your concern but feel comfortable with precautions taken.”
On November 17, in a joint press interview with Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, Jenkins gave citizens the following advice about celebrating Thanksgiving:
“Please, do what you know you need to do. Avoid those crowds, avoid doing get-togethers. Celebrate in a special way, but celebrate them with the people you live with,” he said.
Photos of Jenkins and other local officials appearing to not follow their own coronavirus mandates or guidance have prompted strong reactions from citizens.
“What it shows is that we continue to have an elected class in this country, and us serfs,” 2017 Conservative Leader Award winner Joel Starnes previously told Texas Scorecard. Going forward, Starnes advises citizens to practice “peaceful noncompliance” with coronavirus mandates.
Republican Party of Texas Chairman Allen West has called for the Texas Legislature to address “executive overreach” in the upcoming legislative session. “Government exists to protect our rights, not to protect our health. That is an individual responsibility,” he stated.
The 87th Legislative Session starts on January 12, 2021. Concerned citizens may contact their elected state representative and state senator.
An unedited recording of the commissioners meeting from that day can be viewed here.
Citizens may also contact their Dallas County commissioners.
District 1 Commissioner Dr. Theresa Daniel (D): Theresa.firstname.lastname@example.org, 214-653-7473
District 2 Commissioner J.J. Koch (R): email@example.com, 214-653-6100
District 3 Commissioner John Wiley Price (D): John.Price@dallascounty.org, 214-653-6671
District 4 Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia (D): Elba.GarciaDDS@dallascounty.org. 214-653-6670
This article has been updated since publication.