Texas

Odessa City Council voted 5-2 to dismiss high-ranking officials for the second time

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On Monday morning, the Odessa City Council doubled its stake by voting 5-2 to fire city manager Michael Marrero and city attorney Natasha Brooks.

Initially, local leaders voted for remove two officers December 13, but civil action prompted the council to reconsider the vote.

Gaven Norris, the local Odessa prosecutor, filed a lawsuit against the council on December 22. He argued that council members violated the state’s open assembly law when they refused to allow public comment before voting to fire two administrators.

The trial resulted in the judge placing temporary hold by decision of the council. However order has been deleted after the city council announced it would vote again – this time ensuring the public had a say on all agenda items.

Addressing the council on Monday, Norris said: “We don’t have to actually file a lawsuit for you to actually do the right thing.”

Several other people at the meeting stood up to express concern about the council’s decisions.

Former Odessa City Council member Marie Willis came on Monday to voice her displeasure at the dismissals of Odessa Mayor Michael Marrero and City Attorney Natasha Brooks.
Mitch Borden/Marfa Public Radio

“Frankly, I am overwhelmed by the situation we are in right now,” said Gene Collins, a local community organizer. “I think this community should explain why these people were fired.”

Several other city employees, including assistant city manager, left their positions after the board’s initial decision to fire Marrero and Brooks. At the meeting, former council member Marie Willis called the departure a “mass exodus”. She said she believes that under current leadership, the city’s staff is forced to be “yes.”

“If you say no, you will be on the cutting block. If you don’t answer yes, you are on the verge of a breakdown,” she said. “[Departing employees] don’t want to be part of the mess that’s going on. They don’t want to say yes or they will leave.”

On Monday, the council remained largely silent, refusing to explain the reason for the dismissal. Only two council members voted against the dismissal of Marrero and Brooks, who were not present at the meeting.

“It terribly revolts me, it was all fried and smashed behind closed doors,” said Council member Stephen Thompson, one of the two dissenting members. “I don’t believe we’re being honest here.”

After the meeting, the mayor of Odessa, Javier Joven, told reporters that there were communication problems between the council and Marrero.

“[The council and city manager’s office] they are supposed to work hand in hand with policy development, and that didn’t happen,” he said. “There was no communication. Sometimes not only weeks, but months without communication.”

Joven said the city is in a phase of transition and the layoffs are part of a larger change.

“This is a council that is basically moving in a different direction, we have made a statement that we are determined to move this community forward,” he said. “The day-to-day operations of those involved in this needed to be changed, and the council has responded in detail to this.”

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