ODC member demands Thompson resign 

Tuesday night’s Odessa City Council meeting was over in under 30 minutes and the most exciting part wasn’t even on the agenda.


The meeting started out when Odessa Development Corporation Board Member Kris Crow called on Councilman Steven Thompson during Citizen Comments to immediately resign from the council.


On Jan. 11, the Odessa City Council voted 4-3 to remove Jeff Russell from the Odessa Development Corporation after Thompson and fellow council member Mari Willis expressed their displeasure about his behavior during a Dec. 8 ODC meeting.


According to the pair, Russell participated in discussions about a Rhodes USA proposal at a December ODC meeting despite telling the chairman he had a business relationship with Rhodes USA. They also said he didn’t file conflict of interest paperwork in a timely manner.


Both Thompson and Willis said Russell’s actions resulted in the appearance of impropriety and the integrity of both the ODC and the council could be called into question as a result.


Russell said he abstained from voting on the Rhodes USA matter because he mistakenly believed Neo Construction and Rhodes USA were affiliated and he has done business with the former. Russell said he has also since discovered that his business with Neo would not be considered a conflict of interest under the law.


Russell further stated he didn’t file conflict of interest papers in a timely manner because he had wrongly assumed ODC Chairman Tim Edgmon would’ve told him to – had it been necessary.


During the Jan. 11 meeting, council member Denise Swanner, who appointed Russell to the ODC board, tried repeatedly to read a proclamation claiming Thompson himself has twice voted on a matter in which he had a conflict, but she was shut down by Mayor Javier Joven because Thompson’s actions weren’t on the agenda.


On Tuesday night, Crow told the council they needed to ask themselves if they were “ethical leaders or hypocrites” before reading a proclamation similar to Swanner’s.


Both Crow and Swanner contend the city approved a contract for STA Benefits in December 2020 and again in December 2021 despite the fact the Texas Secretary of State still lists Thompson as the president of the company.


The two allege the contract was unanimously approved by the council in December 2020, but former Mayor David Turner later indicated Thompson had abstained from the vote. They further allege Thompson voted on the contract again in December 2021 despite the fact his son now owns the business and he had a conflict of interest.


Crow told the council Tuesday, the Secretary of State, LinkedIn and the Better Business Bureau still connect Thompson to STA Benefits and threw Thompson and Willis’ words from the Jan. 11 meeting into their face.


“Everyone throughout these quotes have said honesty and integrity (are important) and even a hint of impropriety is not acceptable from this council, however we have turned a blind eye time and time again to Mr. Thompson and his contract, his family business,” Crow said. “I call on you city council, I call on you, Steve Thompson to do the right thing. Step down. Resign from this council immediately. If you’re an ethical person and you’re not a hypocrite you will do that for the citizens of this city. Council, if you’re ethical you will publically voice your opinion that he needs to step down. Citizens of Odessa, I call on you to call on this council and to call Steve Thompson to honor his words. If he is ethical, there is a hint of impropriety here and he does need to step down.”



After the meeting Thompson said he would not be stepping down as he has done nothing wrong. He also shared documents he said proves he has acted above board the entire time.


Thompson explained STA Benefits has a no-commission consulting agreement with the City of Odessa that requires the company to find the best deals it can when it comes to employees’ life insurance, disability claims, accidental death, etc. Under the terms of the agreement,  the company is paid an agreed to fee with the city per covered employee per month.


Thompson said STA Benefits was purchased in 2002 by National Financial Partners, but he remained onboard under a management contract until he retired in 2015 and his son, Marty Thompson, assumed his role.


In December 2020, his son brokered a deal between the City of Odessa and Standard Insurance Company where the city would pay an annual premium of roughly $155,0000 to Standard, Thompson said.


His detractors have alleged STA Benefits received a $155,000 contract, but first of all, the $155,000 is the cost of the premiums and secondly, the contract is with Standard Insurance, not STA, Thompson said.


Thompson also provided tax documents showing his son received roughly $28,000 in income from the City of Odessa in 2020, not $155,000.


Thompson further explained that in December 2021, the council didn’t sign a three-year contract with STA Benefits as has been alleged, they entered an agreement with Standard Insurance through STA Benefits locking in insurance rates for three-years. The city can cancel the contract at any time, he said.


The reason his name is still listed as the president of STA Benefits on the Texas Secretary of State’s website is because National Financial Partners has failed to file the paperwork needed to fix it, Thompson said.


National Financial Partners has not returned messages seeking comment, but Thompson supplied the Odessa American a letter from NFP confirming Thompson has not been involved in the management of STA since 2015. Thompson said he provided the city secretary with the letter in June 2021.


In addition, Thompson provided the OA with emails between his son and NFP from earlier this month that indicate NFP is working to update its paperwork with the Secretary of State to remove Thompson from its website.


As for the LinkedIn account, Thompson said he doesn’t have one. He also said he has no idea why the BBB would list him as the owner of STA Benefits.


Thompson said audio recordings of the December 2020 and December 2021 meetings will prove he abstained from both votes involving STA Benefits.


In related matters, Swanner’s attempt to replace Russell on the board with chiropractor James Kirk failed.


Before taking a vote, Thompson announced he wanted to chat with Kirk prior to voting, prompting Swanner to respond “That’s fine, but it’s not your appointment, it’s mine.”


When Joven called for the vote, Thompson voted “nay” along with Detra White and Willis. With Joven, Mark Matta and Swanner voting “yes” and Council member Tom Sprawls absent, the motion failed.


City Attorney Natasha Brooks said Swanner can place the item on the next agenda.


In other matters, the council approved a nearly $7 million, 10-year agreement with Axon. The Arizona-based company  will provide OPD with Tasers, body-worn cameras, helmet cameras, dash cams and drones. The company will also provide training and records management and evidence management systems.


The council also agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by Lourdes Rodriguez against the city for $60,000. Rodriguez was injured when her vehicle and a pickup truck being driven by a parks department employee collided in October 2017 at West Clements Street and South Kelly Avenue.