Covid taskforce explain protocols when issuing citations to businesses violating shutdown order

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Some El Paso City Council members looked to clear any confusion about who should get cited when a business violates the County shutdown order.

During Monday’s special meeting, the Deputy City Manager of Public Safety Dionne Mack said the COVID Mitigation Taskforce made 538 visits, issued 24 citations and 66 warrants since Friday when the shutdown order was ruled valid.

The question as to who receives the citation got some clarity during the meeting.

“So if the owner happened to be there, or if it’s the assistant manager and the manager is there, it’s going to go to the person who is actually in control of the establishment at that time that the officer observes the offense happening in their presence,” Assistant Chief Pete Pacillas with the El Paso Police Department said.

Pacillas said law enforcement can’t cite the business when violating the current shutdown order, but rather the person in charge when officers are present. “Whether it’s traffic code, penal code or any of the other orders or laws that are there. It’s the person that is actively violating it.”

City Rep. Alexsandra Annello said she’s concerned about the employees who are being directed to show up to work getting the citation rather than the owners and asked if there’s any way to change that.

“I feel like that’s maybe not appropriate, considering we have business owners who are openly refusing to follow the orders and are suing the County and they’re the ones that are directing their staff to show up,” Annello shared.

City Attorney Karla Nieman said traditionally law enforcement cites whoever is in charge of the business when the officers arrive to the facility.

“The issuance of citations to businesses is not unique to this order,” Nieman explained. “Our code enforcement officers and law enforcement officers are required to issue citations for other violations and they are traditionally issued to the person that is managing the store at the time or the shift manager, whoever represents the owner.”

“The citation is not an admission of guilt, it just says that the they’re going to be responsible to show up to court to argue their case, or they’re going to pay their fine,” Pacillas added.

City Rep. Annello said she’s going to work on continuing these discussions with the City Attorney as to who should get cited at these businesses, so long as the shutdown order stands.

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