Muncy tenders resignation following firings

Less than one week after the Odessa City Council fired her boss, Assistant City Manager Cindy Muncy has turned in her letter of resignation.

The short letter, addressed to Interim City Manager and dated Monday, simply states, “I would like to inform you that I am retiring from my position of Assistant City Manager- Administrative Services effect Jan. 6, 2023.”

Muncy has not returned a phone call seeking comment.

On Dec. 13, the council voted 5-2 to fire City Manager Michael Marrero and City Attorney Natasha Brooks without explanation.

Prior to joining the City of Odessa in 2010, Muncy performed audits for 29 years for local governments and non-profit organizations. The certified public accountant and native Odessan oversees billing and collection, building services, finance, budget, purchasing and risk management.

In an emailed response requesting an interview, Mayor Javier Joven wrote, “I was made aware of Mrs. Muncy’s resignation through Interim City Manager Agapito Bernal. We would like to thank Mrs. Muncy for her years of service in her role as ACM and wish her well in her future endeavors.”

District 1 City council member Mark Matta said he was made aware of the resignation by Bernal also.

Up until his promotion, Bernal oversaw the city’s billings and collections department.

When asked about the impact her departure could have, Matta said, “It’ll have some kind of an impact, but it’s not going to be detrimental. We’ll be able to find somebody else to replace her and the city will move on as usual.”

Matta said he doesn’t know if Muncy was considered for the interim city manager position.

“I believe Mr. Bernal has been with the city for quite awhile too and is pretty well-qualified. I’m confident in the choice that was made for interim city manager,” Matta said.

City council members Denise Swanner, Chris Hanie and Greg Connell did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.

In the days leading up to the terminations, District 2 Council member Steve Thompson, who opposed the motion, predicted the city could lose Muncy if Marrero lost his position.

Thompson is worried about the impact Muncy’s departure will have not only on the city council, but on the Odessa Development Corporation. He said she spends a lot of her time educating members of the board on general accounting practices.

“Where are you going to find somebody with a municipal accounting background? Those people don’t grow on trees. City managers grow on trees, they turn over about every five years,” Thompson said.

District 3 City council member Gilbert Vasquez, who took office Nov. 22, said he was disappointed by the news since he has heard she was an “excellent” financial officer.

“It’s just a tremendous loss for the City of Odessa as far as the budget finance department. We depend on that department to guide us through all of the money situations that we’re involved in,” Vasquez said. “The bottom line? I’m just very saddened and bothered by the fact she’s resigned.”

Vasquez said he is worried about additional losses.

“I suspect we’re beginning to see a fallout of people that are going to exit the city. I think it already started with Chief (John) Alvarez in the fire rescue department…and now hers,” Vasquez said. “I’m afraid it’s going to trickle on down to the other departments.

OFR Chief John Alvarez announced his resignation after 30 years with the city Dec. 9. His last day will also be Jan. 6.

OFR has had several resignations in recent months. Assistant Fire Chief Joey White retired in October after 30 years and Assistant Fire Chief Rodd Huber retired last week after 27 years.

The fire department has lost more than 70 firefighters over the last two years and members of the fire association have been pleading with the city council for months for raises.

The city council voted unanimously to pay more than $111,000 for a compensation study for all city employees in July, with a majority of the council wanting to wait to make a decision about raises until it was complete.

Since that decision, Swanner, who was elected in December 2020, has said a compensation study had already been conducted on OFR, but the council was kept in the dark about it. She suggested the new study wasn’t needed and argued repeatedly the raises should be given immediately.

The new study was not yet complete when three outgoing council members were replaced by Vasquez, Hanie and Connell, who all ran unopposed and were sworn in Nov. 22.

With the new council members in place, the council voted 5-2 last week to give raises to firefighters, dispatchers and police officers.

Matta told the council he put some figures together from the final Evergreen Solutions compensation study, which was supposed to be shared at a Dec. 6 council meeting that was cancelled due to the lack of a quorum.

The council member said he believes the raises will cost $2.9 million per year, but acknowledged he never ran the figures past Muncy prior to last week’s meeting and vote.

Thompson disputed Swanner’s assertion that the council was kept in the dark and has said Marrero told all of the council members about the 2019 study in February. The Odessa American had also written about the study in December 2019.

On Dec. 14, OFR Assistant Chief Joey White’s replacement, Bradley Reese asked Alvarez to be demoted two ranks to battalion chief, effective immediately.

“I am committed to the success of Odessa Fire Rescue and want to continue to add value to our organization moving forward, but feel at this time I am best situated to do that from the Battalion chief position,” Reese wrote.

In a text, Reese said stepping down was a “personal choice.”

Thompson agrees others may be looking to leave the city.

“They all felt safe with Michael. Michael was their buffer. A lot of them didn’t like the way the council was operating since the changeover and since they fired Michael, everybody feels intimidated,” Thompson said.

Although Thompson and Vasquez said they are disappointed by the lack of communication and consensus-building on the council, they will continue to vote their consciences.

“I’m not going anywhere. Hell, no. I should, but then who is going to talk for the people? I signed on to do the job and I don’t ever quit,” Thompson said.

Although he acknowledges he won’t be “very effective,” he’ll at least be able to explain to voters when he votes in opposition to the majority why he did so, Thompson said.

“That’s the only way the public’s going to know what’s going on. I’m telling you now, I was never contacted about those interim jobs, about who was going to take those and neither was Gilbert,” Thompson said.

Matta said that was their own fault.

“They can pick up the phone and call. You always make them seem like they’re the ones left out, when they’re not. There have been many times when Mr. Thompson’s had communications with our former city manager and other people and we weren’t involved in those conversations. Does that make what he’s doing underhanded and maybe a little sketchy? No, it’s just, you know, he’s free to call us and he can call the mayor whenever he wants to.”