Why Did El Paso’s Mayor Vote To Keep COVID-19 Numbers Secret?
El Paso mayor Dee Margo took some time to talk to Mike and Tricia Mornings today to clear up some things about why he voted to not release information to the public about COVID-19 hotspots in our area.
During El Paso City Council's regular Tuesday meeting, City reps, Margo, and El Paso City Attorney Karla Nieman went into executive session to discuss whether the City had to release the information that has been requested via Freedom of Information Act requests by various news outlets in town.
When they voted, Margo broke the 4-4 tie to make it 5-4 against releasing the information. On the show today, the mayor told us that he and City Council were told that the state has a statute against releasing the information to the public. Here is the link to the statute. As far as I can tell, the information about a hotspot, and this statute appears to have been written in response to the Zika virus, is really only available to local health authorities and first responders. The problem, from my perspective is, the City is going to work hard to keep that information private and because of the nature of the pandemic, there will be other hotspots that crop up so the best thing to do is follow safety protocols and limit your exposure.
Here are a couple of clips from the show. The first thing we wanted to know from Mayor Margo was why City Council makes such extensive use of executive session, especially in a case like Tuesday when they were discussing public health and the public's need to know where the COVID-19 hotspots are in El Paso:
In this clip, I asked why the City Attorney had said that the City could release the information but they weren't required to. The mayor said that is a matter of interpretation by the media and not the way that City Attorney Karla Nieman had presented the issue to Council:
In this clip, Mayor Margo had just told us that he was going to be on a phone call with the governor later in the afternoon with a handful of other mayors. We asked what he was going to bring up in relation to El Paso and our needs: