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Attorney General Ken Paxton warns North Texas city to end mask mandate or face legal action

Ken Paxton speaking at lecturn.
MARJORIE KAMYS COTERA
/
The Texas Tribune
Attorney General Ken Paxton Speaking at a podium.

In addition to the city of Denton this week, Paxton has sent similar warnings to other local governments and school districts across Texas. Some are also being sued.

Texas Attorney General KenPaxton is warning the city of Denton to end its mask requirement for city employees by noon Tuesday, or be the latest local government to face legal action for defying Governor Greg Abbott’s mask mandate ban. Hesent a letter to Denton’s interim city manager Thursday.

“This is not a new policy; this is not a new order,” Paxton said in a statement. “The City of Denton is openly defying the Governor after the Texas Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld his authority in this matter.”

The North Texascity’s mandate also includes businesses, public schools, and child care centers. Last month, the Denton city councilextended the measure through the end of March.

Council member Brian Beck told The Texas Newsroom, since this is a legal matter, he does not want to speak for the city or speculate. But Beck said he’s “not really sure what would motivate the Governor and the Attorney General to not follow scientific and biomedical best practices.”

Beck — who’s also had a 30-year career as a scientist — said city officials are just following the COVID-19 mitigation recommendations of health professionals and agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I’m just going to say that the goal of the council was to follow scientific practices and be prudent and try to protect the people of the city of Denton,” he added.

Vicki Byrd, who’s also on the council, said she still needs to talk to her fellow council members about Paxton’s letter, and expects they will have to soon make a “decision collectively.” But, she wasn’t surprised.

“We knew at some point it would be our turn,” Byrd added, referring to other local governments and school districts across Texas that havepreviously gotten similar warnings or are in legal battles with Paxton’s office.

Those include Harris, Dallas, Bexar, and Travis counties as well as Round Rock ISD, Waco ISD, and Spring ISD.

Meanwhile, Paxton said his office is continuing to “ask the Texas Supreme Court for assistance in ordering rogue local governments and school districts to follow the law banning mask mandates.”

A spokesperson for the city of Denton said the city is aware of the letter and officials are reviewing it.