EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Just days after telling the public to “stay home and stay safe,” El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego’s neighbors are accusing him of violating his own order.
Samaniego issued his “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order just a week ago, and one of the many activities not allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic are get-togethers at your house.
However, neighbors said they suspect someone isn’t following the rules at the county judge’s home.
“You know, we close the valve if the community doesn’t respond,” Samaniego said last week during a news conference. “I know that’s not gonna be the case. But we did not have all the traction that we needed when people are gathering and going against the order.”
Samaniego, along with El Paso Mayor Dee Margo and health officials came up with the “Stay Home, Work Safe” orders to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
But on Saturday night, Samaniego’s West El Paso home appeared to have a large social gathering, according to his neighbors, who sent KTSM photos with an 8:30 p.m. timestamp from that day.
Neighbors said the gathering continued well into the night with about five cars in the driveway and six more cluttering up the curve.
Section 3 of the “Stay Home, Work Safe” order prohibits gatherings of any number of people who do not live in the home.
On Wednesday, Samaniego’s home was quiet. He declined several interview requests and instead referred KTSM to a statement from the El Paso Chamber of Commerce.
“Losing credibility is not something that would be helpful and it’s such a difficult situation,” Samaniego said. “I know what kind of community we have. We have a very kind, generous and forgiving community. And I know they will allow me to move forward and be successful and do what I can do best and try to be CEO of the county.”
El Paso area law enforcement has issued 271 warnings and two citations for violating the stay-at-home orders.
Some El Pasoans are bothered by the situation at the county judge’s home.
“For an elected official to do that is just not right,” said Roy Del Castillo. “He’s telling all the public to keep their distance and he’s not doing it … that’s just not right at all.”
Abraham Deluna agreed and said it’s not fair Samaniego didn’t get cited, while a regular person would.
“I think they are being unfair because they are not following the rules that they are making,” Deluna said.
Ray Griffin added: “No he’s not above the law.”
Samaniego said he is working with other city leaders to implement new stay-at-home restrictions.