The City of Odessa will cut off public funds for the Odessa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, after the Odessa City Council signed off Tuesday on ending the struggling organization’s contract.
But the Hispanic Chamber will keep getting public money for about two months per the terms of the contract, and the organization could still get another bite at the apple.
The City Council’s unanimous decision to terminate the contract came just weeks after the abrupt removal of Hispanic Chamber leaders who were about to propose reforms to the non-profit, which would have included doing away with a controversial publicly funded job heading a troubled effort to build business ties with Mexico. Funding for that program, the Mexico Initiative, will also cease.
Meanwhile, the Hispanic Chamber can ask for new funding, including for the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
The Tuesday vote ratified in a unanimous decision by the Odessa Development Corporation, the board of council appointees overseeing millions of dollars of sales tax money that includes the funding for the Hispanic Chamber. The ODC would also have to sign off on any new contract for the organization.
“Part of this really is rebuilding the confidence of the ODC and the council in the chamber that they have the ability to move forward with the contract,” Interim City Attorney Gary Landers said. “Many people believe ‘Well, of course they do.’ But there are other people that say, well based on the actions of the last six months, the confidence has been a little shaken. And there has been instability.”
District 5 City Councilman Filiberto Gonzales was one of Hispanic Chamber officials who ousted the new leaders, raising questions about whose interests are served with the dual roles. But Gonzales denied any conflict with his duties as a city official who funds the organization with tax money.
Gonzales defended his role in the shake-up on Tuesday but declined to detail his reasoning for supporting the removal of leaders including CEO Price Arredondo and new board members.
“I stand with what I did,” Gonzales said.
The Hispanic Chamber has struggled to show verifiable results after years of taxpayer investment in the organization and the Mexico Initiative. Funding for the Mexico Initiative was set to expire this week after a six-month deadline to find professional leadership.
Public funds budgeted for the Hispanic Chamber this year totaled more than $305,000, paid in monthly installments. Of that money, about $167,000 was dedicated to the Mexico Initiative.
Arredondo was removed from his post on March 8, just before he was scheduled to propose changes to the ODC. One of his proposed changes included replacing the paid head of the Mexico Initiative, Raymond Chavez, who is an associate of Gonzales.
Gonzales said he supported ending the city’s contract with the Hispanic Chamber as long as city officials negotiate a new one and the city gives the organization he belongs to clear guidance on how it needs to meet expectations.
“I would be wrong if I said I’m not worried, because it’s a timeline,” Gonzales said. “You have pressure. You want to get things done. But I feel that the right people are in place to be able to make it happen. I think it’s fair.”
IN OTHER BUSINESS, THE CITY COUNCIL:
>>Approved City Council minutes from the March 13 and March 20 meetings.
>>Approved accepting a donation from Atmos Energy and appropriating the funds to Odessa Fire/Rescue.
>>Approved for the second and final time an ordinance adopting a new Atmos Gas Tariff and Rate Review Mechanism.
>>Approved authorizing Odessa Fire/Rescue to accept Texas Law Enforcement Officer Standards Education funds.
>>Approved accepting the 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
>>Approved awarding a contract for the 2018 sealcoating project.
>>Approved awarding a contract for the 2018 pavement rejuvenation project.
>>Opened a public hearing and approved for the second and final time an ordinance granting a request by Betenbough Homes for development of 84 single-family lots on the northeast corner of 91st Street and Rainbow Drive, after city staff met with a concerned citizen and developed plans for an additional stop sign along 91st Street to help reduce speeding.
>>Opened a public hearing and approved for the second and final time a request by ICA Properties for original zoning of Future Development-Drill Reservation on a 4.2 acre tract and .15 acte tract northwest and northeast of the intersection of Mission Boulevard and Dorado Drive.
>>Opened a public hearing and approved for the second and final time a request by Vickie and Thomas Hurt to rezone from Single Family-Two to Retail-One northeast of the intersection of Catalina Drive and West 24th Street.
>>Opened a public hearing and consider approved for the second and final time a request by Verna Headlee for original zoning of a roughly 2 acre tract from Future Development to retail southeast of the intersection of Loop 338 and E. 56th St.
>>Opened a public hearing and approved for the second and final time a request by Leeco Energy & Investments to rezone from Single Family-Three to Special Dwelling District northeast of the intersection of East 52nd Street and Conley Avenue.
>>Opened a public hearing and approved for the first time a request by Leeco Energy & Investments for a specific use permit to allow a salon or boutique in an Office Zoning District west of the intersection of East Ridge Road and Parks Legado Road.
>>Opened a public hearing and approved for the first time a request by SMBC Leasing & Finance Inc. for original zoning of Planned Development-Light Industrial east of the intersection of South Faudree Road and Interstate 20.
>>Approved for the first time an ordinance renewing the night curfew for people under 17.
>>Approved a memorandum of understanding with the Texas Department of Public Safety for Allied Agency Training.
>>Approved a $30,000 facade grant for Yung Ham LLC (Crenshaw Flooring).
>> Reviewed meeting agenda items and discussed the Scott Theater sign in a briefing session before the regular meeting.