AG orders City again to release public info

Documents show employee Tased others at work

According to documents the Texas Attorney General’s Office forced the City of Odessa to release Wednesday, three supervisors in the City of Odessa’s Public Works Department didn’t see an issue with an employee bringing a Taser to work until two of his colleagues reported him for using it.

On Jan. 30, a routine Texas Public of Information Act request resulted in the Odessa American learning that Dusty Alford was fired Jan. 8 for violating a city policy prohibiting fighting or boisterous conduct, deliberately causing physical injury to another employee or citizen, intimidation and unnecessary disruption of the work area.

Human resource documents released Wednesday reveal an HR investigator determined Alford had been allowed to “bully and joke around” so long as he felt comfortable enough to bring fireworks and a Taser onto city property.

“He also felt comfortable enough to show his supervisors the items,” the report detailed.

The investigator concluded, “as a group the department has presented itself unprofessionally and should undergo multiple changes to address the issues brought forth.”

View documents related to the investigation here and here.

According to records obtained by the OA in January, two wastewater collection department employees came to Human Resources on Oct. 6, 2023, to report Alford “was bringing a Taser to work and tasing everyone.”

They further alleged Alford and others were daring others to do inappropriate things, such as going through someone’s backpack for $50. According to an internal memo, they said some of their co-workers had also brought firecrackers to work and set them off.

The employees said they were often called derogatory names and “cussed out” by Alford and some others and they occasionally refused to do what they were told, the memo indicated.

One employee “mentioned that even though these things were brought to (name redacted) repeatedly, nothing was ever done just ‘swept under the rug,’” the memo stated.

On Feb. 6, the OA sought information regarding any disciplinary measures taken against Alford’s co-workers, but Odessa City Attorney Dan Jones declined to provide those documents.

In a letter to the Texas Attorney General’s Office, Jones argued common-law privacy protections protect information if the information “contains highly intimate or embarrassing facts the publication of which would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person” and the information is “not of legitimate concern to the public.”

Jones also argued that the informants’ identity is exempt from disclosure, although the OA never requested the informants’ identity.

On Wednesday, the AG’s Office informed Jones “the public generally has a legitimate interest in information relating to the resignation or termination of a public employee.”

It further stated Jones had “failed to demonstrate the submitted information is highly intimate or embarassing and not of legitimate public concern” and he had failed to “demonstrate the applicability of the informer’s privilege to the submitted information.”

Therefore, the AG’s Office said, the city must release the requested documents.

The documents reveal more details about the allegations made, the investigation itself and the disciplinary actions taken.

According to the documents, a human resource investigation “revealed a workplace that is inadequately supervised with an overly permissive atmosphere with regard to verbal and physical abuse. Multiple supervisors evaded the interviewer’s questions or concealed information from her.”

Documents show Utilities Field Supervisors Eloy Diaz, Casey Corbell and Ruben Guzman were all issued an awareness warning as was their boss, Utilities Field Operations Manager Antonio Madrid.

The documents show another supervisor, Rudy Payen, retired while the investigation was still underway.

Among the investigator’s findings:

  • The environment in the utilities field operations department is “extremely unprofessional.”
  • The crews were allowed to horseplay and joke around without any repercussions.
  • The crews were treated with a “boys will be boys” mentality and the supervisors condoned the immature behaviors.
  • Supervisors had witnessed and ignored bullying behavior within their departments and had not addressed the issues with their supervisors.
  • Madrid was unaware of the issues and relied heavily on his supervisors to handle all situations, including those that should have been brought to his attention.

According to the documents, the two men who went to HR last October said Alford continually harassed one of them with the Taser, shocked two of their colleagues and their supervisors were aware he had the weapon.

One of them men said he was resigning because he felt threatened on a daily basis, but especially when he was assigned to Alford’s crew, the report stated.

“Both (employees) stated that Dusty is very aggressive (with two other men) and have seen him wrestle them and try to choke them out,” the report stated.

When spoken to individually, both men said they never saw Alford Tase anyone, but that Alford himself had said he’d Tased two of their colleagues.

One of the men also said Alford was continually rude to one of their female colleagues, often calling her “witch” in Spanish, the report stated.

The whistleblower who was quitting told HR Alford always wanted to wrestle or fight him and when he would decline, Alford would call him names. He said on Oct. 2 Alford “was walking around where he was and pushing the clicker like he was going to Tase (him) all day” causing him to be uncomfortable.

Investigators spoke with both men allegedly Tased by Alford. One of them said Alford shocked his leg while driving despite the fact he told him to “cut it out or not touch him with the Taser,” the report stated. However, he said he did not want to file a police report.

The other man told HR he’d never seen the Taser, had never been Tased and was not aware of the weapon ever being on city property, the report stated. Even when advised three witnesses said he’d been present when Alford was showing off his Taser, he continued to deny ever seeing it.

He also told the investigator he’d never seen anyone wrestle or fight at work.

As for Alford, an HR investigator reported he initially denied bringing a Taser into the office. He then said he showed it to two colleagues before putting it away at Payen’s request. Questioned further, he admitted he Tased one co-worker before putting it away.

When he was asked if he knew he’d committed an assault, Alford told the investigator yes, but they were just playing around, the report stated.

According to the report, Alford acknowledged he’d brought the type of fireworks that pop when you throw them at the ground, but denied shoving tables or chairs or urging anyone to rifle backpacks, as was reported.

As for wrestling or horseplaying, Alford said they all “push and shove each other,” the report stated.

At least three supervisors told the HR investigator they were unconcerned with Alford bringing a Taser to work.

Payen told the investigator he was unaware of Alford Tasing anyone and when he saw Alford with a Taser he told him to remove it from city property, the report stated.

“He also stated that he didn’t think Dusty having a Taser was a big deal because Dusty is always messing around and playing,” the report stated.

Guzman, too, said “he did not think it would be a big deal for Dusty to have a Taser” and he acknowledged seeing Alford showing it off.

According to the report, Corbell initially said he didn’t remember if he’d ever seen Alford’s Taser, but later admitted he’d shown it to him. He also said he doesn’t consider a Taser a weapon and he didn’t say anything to Madrid about it because he wasn’t concerned about it.

The Texas Attorney General has ordered the City of Odessa multiple times over the last year to release documents it sought to keep hidden.

  • April 11 — The AG’s Office forced the city to release an Odessa Police Department report from Nov. 21, 2022, regarding allegations made against Republican agitator Matt Coday by Councilmember Denise Swanner and former Ector County Republican Chairwoman Tisha Crow.
  • March 21 — The AG’s Office determined the City of Odessa erred when it withheld documents showing it was Mayor Javier Joven who texted Police Chief Mike Gerke a description of Coday’s truck and his license plate number indicating a man associated with the vehicle was behaving suspiciously in Crow’s neighborhood. The city fought to keep Joven’s name hidden.
  • July 31, 2023 — The AG’s Office forced the city to turn over documents that revealed virtually all of the crime scene technicians within the Odessa Police Department’s crime scene unit were suspended for several hours in March 2023 for harassing one of their colleagues.
  • May 17, 2023 — The AG’s Office ruled the city had no legal grounds not to release all emails, texts and memos concerning fired Assistant City Manager Aaron Smith’s behavior, job performance, work ethic or human resource issues.
  • March 29, 2023 — The AG’s Office ruled the city erred when it refused to release emails, texts, witness statements and documents pertaining to an investigation launched after Odessa Fire Rescue cadets were injured and two supervisors were disciplined in connection with the injuries.