LA PORTE, Texas – A member of the La Porte City Council said he was escorted out of Monday night’s council meeting for refusing to wear a face mask.
“The other members who share this board with me don’t have the authority or shouldn’t have the authority to remove me because of an arbitrary reason like this,” said Councilman Thomas Garza.
The council started the meeting with a vote requiring everyone at the front table to cover their faces.
Garza said he pushed back because the item wasn’t on the meeting’s agenda and because he believes it goes too far.
“I do think that there are lines where we have to say ‘this exceeds your authority,' and even if I didn’t have health concerns for not wearing a mask, I think they crossed a line last night,” Garza said.
Based on an audio recording of the meeting on the city’s website, not everyone agrees.
“I have no intention of sitting two feet away from someone who is not wearing a mask when I am compromised by three separate conditions in my health that require me to be extra careful,” a man is heard saying on the recording. “You not complying with this will hurt me. You complying with it won’t hurt you at all except your sense of entitlement,” he said.
Reached by phone on Tuesday night, Councilman Steve Gillett said he made the motion and raised concerns about his own health.
“Simply because he is afraid should not compel me to sacrifice my rights or my liberties,” Garza said.
In the recording, the presiding official said the issue did not need to be on the agenda because it was a matter of decorum. Garza said he left the building when asked by police officer.
Both sides said the other could take part in the meeting remotely, even in another room in La Porte City Hall.
Garza said he plans to attend the next council meeting and will not be wearing a mask.