Mayor Margo, County Judge Samaniego take Covid-19 disagreement to radio, social media

A day after County Judge Ricardo Samaniego issued a revised closure policy for the county, and subsequent releases from Mayor Dee Margo taking issue with the legality of the orders, the disagreement over the closure spilled over to broadcast radio and social media Friday morning.

Early Friday morning, Mayor Margo called into KLAQ (95.5FM) Buzz Adams Morning Show, to clarify the situation.

During the live interview, the Mayor, when asked directly ‘what should businesses do today,’ the simply responded “Remain open…” and then went on to clarify what happened between the County Judge and himself.

“It’s unfortunate…the Judge and I have been in total lockstep since day one- you can’t…ya know…the legal departments of the county and the city have to work together to figure out how you would enforce a particular order which is what we’ve done from day one…but unfortunately…I also knew this shutdown would not…would not fly. It’s been tried before and the governor would now allow it.”

Mayor Margo went on to say that both he and Judge Samaniego had spoken with the governor on Saturday, as well as Sunday, and that “curfews are one thing, but shutdowns are another thing.”

In response to the question about when the breakdown in communication between the Mayor and County Judge, Margo stated, “I don’t know…I texted him day before yesterday to call me, and I texted him yesterday for him to give me a call, he texted back that he was in meetings with the county attorney’s office and he was going to call me back, but never did…”

The mayor added that he believes there’s been some outside influence on the County Judge and his decision-making process.

“I think there’s been some unfortunate, undue influence by our congresswoman…and…uh…he’s…he’s not talking to to it…but you can’t…the bottom line is number one, I recognize the health issues we’re dealing with.”

Margo went on to say that he toured the overflow facilities, had a ride-along with first responders and that he was well aware of the situation, but referenced the current business situation.

“I’m also well aware that we got 32,000 El Pasoans out of work, people who are just trying to put food on the table and pay for their own medical care…and we can’t do a shutdown…not only because of the impact on those families, but also…it…it can’t be done, it violates the orders the governor has said that…”

Mayor Margo also pointed out that the County Judge’s order had been received at 8 p.m. Thursday night and the order was to go into effect at midnight, saying “It made no sense…it’s unenforceable and people need to keep on working and doing what they need to do.”

When asked if he was taking the stance to curry favor with voters, Margo said he was pushed into taking this stand, and again pointed to Congresswoman Veronica Escobar as being responsible for the split.

“I was pushed into a stance that I would have preferred not to be pushed into…um…I think, if anything, it’s the Congresswoman pushing him before the election…”

He added that no one was in danger of getting a citation, due to the confusion over the county judge’s order.

Margo ended the interview by suggesting his new nickname was ‘Mayor Pinata’ due to all the criticism over his handling of the crisis and wished things were different.

“I wish we didn’t have this pandemic, I wish this weren’t my third crisis and…uh…you know…we’re just doing the best we can.”

Later Friday morning, Judge Samaniego penned the following response and posted it to Facebook.

I would like to start by stating that any reasonable person knows that fighting through the media is never good for a healing community or a community that is under siege by a deadly virus; so much so that our hospitals are saturated and the lives of so many in our region depend on the limited and dwindling state of our healthcare system. Having said this, it wouldn’t be fair to not set the record straight with respect to Mayor Margo’s unfavorable public comments about our relationship. It is no secret that the Mayor and I were in lockstep throughout the majority of our battles and mutual Orders to defeat a robust pandemic.
It is also evident that the Mayor publicly conceded until now, that my orders clearly and legally superseded his orders. Embracing my political platform, I have maintained a collaborative focus and have adhered to my strong belief that ‘if you aren’t at the table you will surely be on the menu’. So before I reach out to the Mayor for the sake of community cohesion, I would like to jot the Mayor’s memory to address his public comments. Last Saturday Mayor Margo, our Local Health Authority, along with the Office of Emergency Management reached out to me to advise me that the increasing numbers of positive cases had reached full capacity in our ICU’s and trending toward full capacity at our hospitals in general. At that point the Mayor suggested or perhaps staged a call to Luis Seinz the Governor’s Chief of staff to ‘request’ from the Governor a Stay at Home Order. Mr. Seinz quickly and forcefully discouraged us to pursue this direction with the Governor. Whereas, the Mayor must have felt he had done his part to support the Office of Emergency Management, I took their alarming concerns to heart and decided to strengthen and amend my order to include a curfew provision to sound the alarm to our community with respect to the level of our healthcare crisis. So as you can acknowledge, the only difference between the Mayor and I with respect to a Stay Home directive is the difference in my level of fortitude and commitment to pursue what we believed would address our trend toward a catastrophic healthcare crisis. At this point it became obvious that the Mayor needed space to ‘further’ nurture his exclusive relationship with the Governor.
Therefore, I sent him the following text:
Worked with my legal team until late last night and on a call with them right now going over my options to support the recommendations of the health Taskforce that I met with yesterday. Not sure if you want to get in the midst of my proposed drastic measures. Recently the minute we work together the media and others make it political and very distracting given that this is about saving lives and stopping the devastation of the virus. Perhaps our mutual efforts will be more impactful?