Glen Rose City Administrator Believes Local Officials Have Been “Thrown Under The Bus” Trying To Enforce Governors Orders

5-7-2020

In a release from Glen Rose City Administrator Mike Leamons on Thursday May 7th, Leamons believes Governor Abbott has thrown local officials of Texas cities such as Glen Rose “under the bus” for trying to enforce his emergency order.

In the release Leamons says “Those familiar with Governor Abbott’s orders are aware that they were oddly worded. On one hand he ordered, “people shall not visit nursing homes,” while on the other hand he ordered, “people shall avoid visiting bars, gyms…or cosmetology salons.” Why say “shall not” in one place, then use “avoid” in another? There is a difference, isn’t there? Does “Thou shalt avoid adultery” send you a different message than “Thou shalt not commit adultery”?

Leamons also pointed out other judges such as Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta who asked for guidance from the state on the vague worded orders which were punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both fine and confinement.” received a response from Attorney General Paxton that the Governor’s order was neither vague nor unenforceable, and local governments are prohibited from allowing businesses to reopen unless they are recognized as essential or reopened services under the Governor’s order.”

Leamons also references Judge Moye and his sentence of salon owner Shelly Luther to 7 days in jail, and how the Governor and Attorney General can criticize local officials such as the Judge for enforcing his emergency order. Has the Governor determined that the scientific findings of COVID-19 are faulty in the first place and led to those orders? If so, then shouldn’t he admit it? Or are the political winds blowing in a different direction Leamons added.

The enforcement orders the city was following lead to citations being issued to a several patrons of the Geotz Physical Cultural Center in Glen Rose. Those citations as of today according to Mark Geotz, have been reclassified as “Warnings”, and there are no pending criminal charges against the patrons, and no other response is required on their part to satisfy the matter.

As mentioned other Judges in the state including Montgomery Texas County Judge Mark J. Keough had the same vague wording questions from the Governors orders. It seems like local officials in many cities are feeling “you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t”, so why should local officials stick their neck out to enforce those orders?

Here is the release in it’s entirety from Glen Rose City Administrator Mike Leamons

Thrown Under the Bus

by Michael Leamons

Yesterday, Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton threw State District Judge Eric Moye under the bus for enforcing Governor Abbott’s orders.  When Governor Abbott issued Executive Order GA 18 concerning actions to be taken to protect citizens against the spread of the coronavirus, he warned, “…failure to comply with any executive order issued during the COVID-19 disaster is an offense punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both fine and confinement.”  Pretty stiff penalties, right?  

Those familiar with Governor Abbott’s orders are aware that they were oddly worded.  On one hand he ordered,  “people shall not visit nursing homes,” while on the other hand he ordered, “people shall avoid visiting bars, gyms…or cosmetology salons.”  Why say “shall not” in one place, then use “avoid” in another?  There is a difference, isn’t there?  Does “Thou shalt avoid adultery” send you a different message than “Thou shalt not commit adultery”?

Due to the apparent wiggle room created by Abbott’s choice of words (he is an attorney isn’t he?), Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta asked Attorney General Paxton for guidance as to “whether local governments may allow businesses to reopen if they are not essential or reopened services defined under Governor Abbott’s executive order.”  In a letter dated April 30, 2020, the Attorney General’s office responded that, “…the Governor’s order is neither vague nor unenforceable, and local governments are prohibited from allowing businesses to reopen unless they are recognized as essential or reopened services under the Governor’s order.” (emphasis mine)

So how, in good conscience, can Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton criticize a local official, like Judge Moye, who is only enforcing the Governor’s orders in compliance with directives issued by the Attorney General’s Office—especially when the 7 days of jail time imposed by Moye are much less severe than the 180 days of jail time referenced in Abbott’s Order?  Didn’t Abbott also threaten to revoke the licenses of businesses which defied his orders?  Has Governor Abbott been running a bluff this whole time?  

Why this about-face by Governor Abbott and the Attorney General?  Have they determined that the scientific findings about the dangers of the coronavirus which prompted Governor Abbott to issue his orders are faulty?  If so, why don’t they admit it?  Or, when they raised a wetted finger in the air, did they simply determine the political winds are blowing in a different direction?   If their about-face is due to political calculations and the science isn’t bad, what are they going to do when the virus spreads because of the now relaxed rules and results in many deaths among the elderly and those with underlying health issues?

If the science is right and protective measures have to be reinstated to guard public health, after seeing what happened to Judge Moye, what local official is going to stick his or her neck out to enforce those orders?