Agreement details Brooks fired without cause by city

This OA file photo shows Odessa City Attorney Natasha Brooks shortly after she took office as the top attorney for the city.

Last month, the Odessa City Council came out of an hour-long executive session and without discussion voted 6-1 to pay fired City Manager Michael Marrero $250,000 and fired City Attorney Natasha Brooks $180,000.

According to documents obtained by the Odessa American through the Texas Public Information Act, the decision was the result of settlement agreements between the parties.

One of the key concessions made by the city? To place documentation in Brooks’ personnel file that states her termination was “without cause.”

From left, new city council members Gilbert Vasquez, Greg Connell and Chris Hanie moments before going into executive session to discuss the fate of City Manager Michael Marrero, right, and City Attorney Natasha Brooks, Dec. 13, 2022. (Kim Smith | Odessa American)

Marrero and Brooks were fired Dec. 13 without explanation and those terminations were ratified during a Jan. 9 city council meeting held after a lawsuit was filed alleging Mayor Javier Joven violated the Open Meetings Act on Dec. 13.

On Feb. 10, El Paso attorney John Wenke sent the city a letter informing officials he was hired by Brooks and she intended to file a legal claim against the city for breach of contract and race discrimination.

Brooks later filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission’s Civil Rights Division alleging Mayor Javier Joven and her replacement, Dan Jones, were hostile toward her, former City Councilwoman Mari Willis and former Assistant City Attorney Monique Wimberly because they are Black.

Brooks alleged her race was a motivating factor in the council’s decision to terminate her and to not pay her severance, a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to records obtained this week through the TPIA request, Brooks agreed to drop the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint as part of the settlement agreement.

Brooks and Marrero both agreed not to pursue a lawsuit against the city in exchange for their severance packages and not to seek attorneys’ fees from the city. Both also agreed they wouldn’t apply for another job with the city, the agreements state.

Brooks, Marrero and the city all agreed they would not speak disparagingly of each other further, nor would Brooks and Marrero share the details of the settlement outside their families, attorneys, IRS or financial advisors.

It also states, however, that Brooks, Marrero and the city may provide truthful testimony and information about each other in any “legal or state bar matter” where their testimony is compelled.

Although the settlement agreement states the city continues to deny all of Brooks’ allegations, the city also agreed to place documents in her personnel file that states her termination was “without cause.”

Marrero’s agreement also states the city denies his allegations, but it does not contain the “without cause” language.

Both agreements state the city opted to settle because “continued litigation of this dispute will be costly, disruptive, time-consuming and the results uncertain.”

Documents also indicate that if the city is contacted in the future by any prospective employer seeking a reference about Brooks the city will only provide her former job title, dates of employment and final salary.

According to documents obtained by the OA, any prospective employers seeking information about Marrero will receive a letter describing the various job titles he held from 1994 through December.

The letter also notes Marrero developed hundreds of affordable and workforce housing units, oversaw various capital projects, including fire stations, roadway and utility infrastructure, an Odessa Police Department multi-use facility and that he helped implement master plans.

It further states he helped in the planning, oversight and completion of a public/private partnership hotel-conference center in downtown Odessa.

According to the agreement, if the city is contacted about Marrero, “the city shall solely provide this letter and make no other comment regarding Marrero’s employment.”

Both settlement agreements were signed by Joven.