Meeting on Monday called to allow public comment

Judge issues TRO and then rescinds it on firing of city manager, attorney

The City of Odessa has scheduled a special meeting for 9 a.m. Monday to once again discuss terminating Michael Marrero and Natasha Brooks. The agenda expressly states members of the public will be allowed to address the council prior to a vote being taken.

Judge John Shrode of the 358th Ector County District Court has rescinded the temporary restraining order he filed Tuesday voiding the terminations of the pair. He also cancelled a hearing Monday where he would have considered making the TRO a permanent injunction until a final hearing is held in a lawsuit filed by civil rights activist and attorney Gaven Norris.

Norris said Wednesday afternoon the city’s decision to scheduled the special meeting was an “admission of guilt.”

“We don’t believe it would have happened if not for us filing the lawsuit,” Norris said.

The attorney said his firm will continue to hold the city council accountable for their actions and will seek legal remedies “on this issue and other issues.”

The Odessa City Council voted 5-2 to terminate Brooks, the city attorney, and Marrero, the city manager, Dec. 13 following an executive session without offering an explanation. They also appointed Dan Jones as interim city attorney and Agapito Bernal as interim city manager.

Norris filed a lawsuit against the city alleging Mayor Javier Joven violated citizens’ rights by not allowing them to speak prior to the vote.

The Dec. 13 meeting agenda said “any member of the public may address the City Council regarding any of its agenda items before or during the consideration of the item.”

On Dec. 28, Norris followed up with a motion asking Shrode to void the actions of the council and to issue a restraining order to “maintain the status quo of City Attorney Natasha Brooks and City Manager Michael Marrero to their respective positions prior to the actions taken” by the council.

He further asked the judge to issue an order stating the council cannot fire, remove, demote or interfere with Brooks’ and Marrero’s position without first allowing members of the public to address the city council.

A hearing on the matter was set for Jan. 10, but Shrode granted Norris’ motion Tuesday, writing that there’d be “irreparable injury, loss or damage” to Norris before notice could be served to the City of Odessa and the Jan. 10 hearing could be held.

In addition to voiding Marrero and Brooks’ terminations, Shrode also said the city council is temporarily prohibited from promoting Dan Jones as interim city attorney and Agapito Bernal as interim city manager without allowing Norris and other citizens and members of the public the right to address the city council first.

Joven and council members Mark Matta, Denise Swanner, Chris Hanie and Greg Connell did not respond to a text and email asking for comments on the restraining order, but Swanner and Matta texted Shrode’s most recent order Wednesday afternoon.

“Glad the right decision was made,” Matta texted.

In response to the restraining order being issued, Council member Gilbert Vasquez, who voted against the terminations, emailed, “I regret that the majority council ruling of Dec. 13, 2022, has come to this.”

Council member Steve Thompson, who also voted against the terminations, was pleased by the judge’s decision.

Prior to Wednesday’s decision, people in the Odessa City Manager’s office and the City Attorney’s office said they didn’t know who was running the day-to-day operations of the city and they’d not been given any directives from Joven or anyone else.