Beaumont Enterprise, Texas
The District Attorney’s Office is investigating Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames’ visit to a nail salon early this week, bringing official scrutiny of the controversy closer to home.
Ames came under blistering public attack this week after a photograph was posted on social media of her in a back room of The Nail Bar, one of the multitude of businesses ordered shut down to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
On Friday, Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick told The Enterprise that he had referred the matter to county prosecutors. District Attorney Bob Wortham confirmed later that his office is investigating, but he declined to elaborate.
A day earlier, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation confirmed it has opened an investigation into The Nail Bar.
The Enterprise reached out for comment to all six City Council members, the elected officials who share policymaking responsibility with the mayor. Only three responded, and none volunteered a statement of support for Ames.
All declined to discuss the matter at any length before the council meets next week in a closed, executive session.
“Based on the information we acquire during that session, the council will decide what its response will be,” Councilman Randy Feldschau said.
Feldschau defended the plans for a closed meeting.
“It’s not to hide anything from the public,” he said. “It’s just there are certain things that are discussed in private. Later we will come out with a public response.”
Councilman Mike Getz, himself the subject of a planned executive session early last month for crude comments made to the city attorney, agreed that it is appropriate to first explore the matter privately.
“It needs to be discussed, especially now in light of the fact the district attorney has opened an investigation,”
Councilman Taylor Neild said he hasn’t talked to Ames since the last council meeting and is aware it will be discussed in executive session. He said he would withhold comment until that time.
Ames, who defended her actions the night the photo came to light before issuing a public apology on Thursday, declined to comment Friday on the DA’s investigation.
Ames signed the March 27 order shutting down a broad array of businesses including salons and other service businesses while exempting groceries and other retailers deemed essential for the public during the outbreak.
The order authorizes law-enforcement agencies to take action against violators and calls for a fine of up to $2,000 for disobeying the order.
The photo released Tuesday shows Ames wearing a face mask and soaking her fingers in a bowl. She said she was not getting a manicure.
Ames first said she wouldn’t have a problem with anyone else making a visit like hers, which she said lasted no longer than about 10 minutes to be shown how to remove the “dip” nails she got prior to the shutdown.
On Thursday, she issued a formal apology. She said she didn’t intend to “take personal privilege while asking others to sacrifice and for that I am truly remorseful.”
The Texas Attorney General’s Office on Thursday declined to confirm or deny whether it was looking into the matter.
The posted agenda for Tuesday’s Beaumont City Council meeting says it will meet under executive session to “consider matters related to the duties of a public officer,” Ames. No other agenda items related to personnel are listed.
The meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at City Hall, 801 Main St. It will be semi-public, meaning individuals who want to address the council will be escorted into the chamber one at a time to observe proper social distancing measures.
Individuals addressing the council are encouraged to bring a personal device to watch the meeting on outside the chambers.
Anyone who doesn’t wish to speak is asked to stay home and watch the meeting on Facebook or on the city’s website.
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