A week after taking office, Odessa’s new interim city attorney said he wants to ensure continuity in the city’s work on major projects and that the city complies with both letter and spirit of open government laws.
Gary Landers, an employee of an Austin-based firm hired by the city of Odessa to temporarily fill the post, started work on Feb. 26. That overlapped with the final days of his predecessor, Larry Long, who was allowed to retire at the end of February following a sexual harassment complaint corroborated by the city’s human resources department.
Landers said the days working with Long provided an important tutorial in ongoing legal cases and major city programs such as the effort to redevelop downtown and public works projects. He said he had no immediate plans to restructure the city’s legal department.
“Where whatever it is we’ve been doing makes sense, we’ll keep doing that,” Landers said. “On the one hand, I understand that I want to have continuity — I can’t tear everything up in one day. But on the other hand we are also talking about that I’m the new city attorney. My title is interim city attorney, but I’m the city attorney. The buck stops here.”
The Odessa City Council last month approved paying more than $25,000 a month to Landers’ employer, the Austin-based Bojorquez Law Firm, which specializes in municipal law. The city budgeted $130,000 for the legal services, which include Landers working in Odessa five days a week, but the contract can be terminated at anytime.
Landers’ background includes serving 28 years as the city attorney of Tyler and some interim posts following his retirement in 2013.
Mayor David Turner said the city would post a job advertisement by the end of the month seeking a permanent city attorney.
Landers said he would not apply for the job.
“What I hope the City Council, the manager, the city staff and . . . the citizens of Odessa will accept is that’s the best possible world for them right now,” Landers said. “I don’t have a past, I don’t have a future. I’m all about right now. I’m all ears. I’m listening.”
The City Council also has yet to name a permanent city manager, after three members combined in September to fire Richard Morton. Morton’s former deputy, Michael Marrero, still serves in the interim position.
Landers said the city’s top two appointees serving in an interim role presents an opportunity to assess the direction of the city.
“This is a new day,” Landers said. “What does the mayor, the council want to do?”