City tire issue heads to court Monday

The Ector County Courthouse photographed on June 12, 2020. (Odessa American File Photo)

Attorneys representing the City of Odessa’s new equipment services director are scheduled to be in Ector County District Judge Denn Whalen’s courtroom Monday to argue why he shouldn’t have to sit for a deposition.

Attorneys representing Southern Tire Mart want Chris Adams to be questioned because they are considering suing him for defamation.

According to court documents filed in August, Southern Tire Mart held a contract with the City from 2020 through July 2023 to provide tires and related services pursuant to an original 2017 contract with GCR Tires and Service. The document alleges that after Adams was hired in June 2023, he met with the local manager and other employees and during that meeting, Adams said he’d been able to prevent Southern Tire Mart from submitting proposals from a government entity in the past, but refused to specify what entity.

Moreover, Adams has also made statements to the media that Southern Tire Mart had overcharged the City of Odessa in its billings.

Southern Tire Mart denies the allegations and “would contend that such statements by respondent constitute defamation and further petitioner has a good faith believe that respondent does not possess the experience or qualifications to arrive at such conclusions in the first place,” the document stated.

According to the document, Southern Tire Mart’s attorneys, Doug Perrin of Dallas and Paul Sewell of Kaufman, want to investigate a potential claim and are asking Whalen to allow them to depose Adams about his employment and personal history and experience, statements he’s made about Southern Tire Mart’s products, services and billing/business practices.

During a June city council meeting, Adams told the city council the city spent $989,000 on tire replacement and repairs last year and he thinks they should only have spent $500,000-$550,000 given the size of the city’s fleet.

The city is now doing its own tire repairs.

In their response to Southern Tire Mart’s request, Adam’s attorneys, Jeff Whitfield and John Fronk, said their allegations are “baseless, vague and spurious.” They further claim Southern Tire Mart’s attorneys “cannot possibly support a viable claim.”

According to the pair, Southern Tire Mart’s witnesses can’t repeat any particular remark made by Adams and have no information about the other government entity Adams allegedly said he’d prohibited proposals from.

“Essentially, petitioner wishes to interrogate respondent about his entire life leading up to his employment with the City of Odessa in hopes of finding a statement, communication or remark that somehow affected one of its governmental contracts,” Adams’ attorneys wrote.

In addition to dismissing the matter, Whitfield and Fronk want the judge to award Adams attorneys fees and court costs. They also want the judge to impose sanctions “that the court determines are sufficient to deter petition from bringing similar actions in the future.”

Whitfield is also one of a handful of attorneys hired by the City of Odessa after City Attorney Natasha Brooks was terminated last December and three of her assistant city attorneys voluntarily left in the weeks following.

Whitfield and Fronk filed a motion to postpone Monday’s hearing on Oct. 5 due to scheduling conflicts, but on Thursday court staff said the matter was still scheduled for Monday afternoon.