A senior assistant attorney who accused his former boss Larry Long of paying him less because of his gender has resigned from the city, citing frustration that city officials failed to resolve his complaint, which followed a separate sexual harassment case that led to Long’s resignation.
Records show the attorney, Todd Stephens, had complained of unequal pay in December after he learned what two female co-workers earned. The Odessa City Council discussed the complaint in a closed meeting on May 8, and after that meeting gave top city appointees the authority to resolve it and use city funds, if needed.
But when contacted Thursday, Stephens said that still hasn’t happened — six months after his initial complaint — prompting him to find a job elsewhere. He declined further comment to the OA.
He resigned May 21, giving June 8 as his last day.
In December, Stephens had learned what two of his colleagues earned through one of the open records requests from citizens Stephens reviews as part of his job, according to records of his complaint.
One fellow attorney with the same job title, who was hired after him, was paid almost $20,000 a year more than him. Meanwhile, another attorney, who was lower ranked and less experienced, was paid only $6 less.
Stephens complained to HR that he believed “the jaw-dropping and unexplainable” salary differences were based on sex. Long had a history of misconduct toward women, including a recent sexual harassment case that HR investigators had corroborated but led to no action by the City Council.
Stephens reported he and the other senior assistant attorney had given “honest and forthright testimony” against Long in that case. Stephens accused Long of retaliating against both of them in ways such as giving the other lower ranked attorney “high-profile tasks” instead of them, recommending her for a promotion with a greater salary and putting her “in line for the Interim City Attorney position,” despite two years of legal experience. The senior assistants each had more than a decade of legal experience, according to the complaint.
Stephens wrote that his grievance was with Long, and that he did not blame the two other attorneys he referenced.
The city fought for months to withhold records in the Stephens case, after the Odessa American requested them in February. On May 18, after an order from the Texas Attorney General’s office, the city finally released them.
Stephens had sought back-pay and discipline against Long, who by then had been allowed to retire.
After the closed meeting on May 8, the City Council approved changes to the way it handles complaints against top city appointees such as the city attorney and city manager. That included doing away with a committee of council members who reviewed complaints in private before they were brought to the whole council. In the Long sexual harassment case, a majority of council members said they were not provided with the city’s internal findings corroborating his employee’s complaint for months.
The City Council also voted to task the city attorney with reviewing and investigating future complaints against appointees. If a complaint involves the attorney, then those duties will fall to the city manager. The officials could hire outside help.
Further, the City Council gave Interim City Attorney Gary Landers the authority to resolve Stephens’ complaint and City Manager Michael Marrero the power to adjust the legal department’s budget, if need be.
Landers was unavailable for comment on Thursday. Marrero did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Before the May meeting, Landers described the complaint as “one more unfinished-business claim.”
“Well let’s see if we can resolve that, because it’s probably been hanging out way too long,” Landers said at the time.