OUR VIEW: Council proves again they have double standard

THE POINT: Odessa council members once again engaging in hypocrisy. And, yes, we have the emails that show the city’s human resources department DID know about the fire cadet investigation.

It’s a shame that some employees didn’t get the sendoff they deserved after dedicating their careers to the City of Odessa.

Top of list is likely former Parks and Recreation Director Steve Patton.

The Starbright Village held every year at McKinney Park was certainly his baby. He grew it from a few displays to a drive through event that attracts thousands of visitors each year and is a feather in the cap of Odessa.

It’s a shame that Patton simply retired with no fanfare after being treated badly by interim City Manager Agapito Bernal.

To recap: Patton wanted to fire Deputy Director Matt Christman who got drunk at a work conference in Frisco and ended up urinating outside where others were nearby. A co-worker complained and Patton told Bernal he was going to fire the man.

But Bernal disagreed and instead gave the man a week suspension without pay and (here’s the really bad part) told Patton he was also going to be suspended for a week because of Christman’s actions.

Say what?

So, Patton is supposed to know how much each of his employees can drink? He’s supposed to know that maybe they might just decide to pee outside?


It’s funny to us that he is supposed to do all of this for (again) an adult. By the way, that adult is now acting as the interim parks and recreation director in the wake of Patton’s retirement.

It’s absurd but also clearly illustrates that some folks working for the City can get away with just about anything as long as they are not targets of the controlling faction of the Odessa City Council, which we believe Patton was.

Why was he a target? Who knows? Maybe because of the purchase of some expensive Christmas trees many elected officials like to throw in the faces of past council members? Who knows?

We wish Patton a happy retirement and thank him for a number of good works throughout his career. We are sure many other Odessans also wish him well and would have turned out for a nice little punch and cookies farewell.

Nothing like that was planned by the current brain trust downtown. We’re sure new spin master Monica McDaniel would’ve taken some excellent photos of grinning council members at the event. (Oh, by the way, we just learned Monday her salary is supposed to top out at $101,163. She’s making $155,000.)

But, while we are on employees who did or did not get the sendoff they deserved, former Fire Chief John Alvarez did get a good sendoff. In fact, it was standing room only when he left the City.

Why mention that? Well, because to hear some elected Pinocchios tell it, Alvarez’s departure was a good thing and the troops are so happy now that no one else has quit OFR in 30 days.

Hmm. And yet Odessa firefighters turned out in large numbers for the event and cheered for Alvarez and wished him a happy retirement. Do guys do that if they hate the guy leaving?

Nope. Just a few more lies from elected officials.

So we learned it’s been a month since anyone quit the OFR from Councilmember Mark Matta who made an appearance on KCRS 550 Thursday morning.

Matta went on the air to talk about attorney Tommy Sheen’s investigation into injuries sustained by OFR cadets last August.

Sheen told the City Council Tuesday night Alvarez engaged in a cover-up of the injuries. He claimed Alvarez purposely kept HR and the city’s legal department out of the loop for weeks and ignored HR’s recommendation to fire the two employees responsible. He further claimed the only paper trail he could find consisted of pre-disciplinary hearing documents.

The OA followed up on Sheen’s report with phone calls to Alvarez, who said he reported the incident to then-City Manager Michael Marrero as soon as he discovered the injuries and launched an investigation. He further stated he, HR and the legal department discussed the investigation during regularly scheduled meetings while the investigation was underway, and recorded statements were uploaded to OFR’s internal affairs database, something HR had easy access to.

So before we get into Matta’s comments, we want to question why Sheen said he could only find pre-disciplinary hearing documents when the City provided us an email chain that included former Assistant Chief Saul Ortega’s six-page investigation summary? We also want to point out Sheen claims HR Director Charles Hurst recommended the guys be fired when the emails show Hurst “concurred” with Alvarez’s decision to write up one employee and place the other on a five-day suspension.

Anyway, back to Matta.

During Matta’s radio appearance, he said Sheen discovered emails were deleted by Alvarez pertaining to the OFR investigation and this “threw up a red flag” and it led them to believe there had been a cover up.

Could Alvarez have deleted emails and could it have been for nefarious reasons? Sure.

What we find entertaining is we already know Mayor Javier Joven routinely deletes his emails because he admitted it. But for Joven, apparently that’s OK.

When Joven sat down with another radio program back in March he said he had not deleted any emails between himself and T2 Professional Consulting, the firm he hired for $338,000 without consulting legal counsel or his fellow council members.

“I didn’t. I don’t have any government official emails. This is a false narrative once again by the local paper to be able to create something that is completely false,” he said. “I have over 3,000-4,000 emails and we know that some of our IT people have been leaking our emails and they’ve been going through and the thing is, it’s been vetted. That is a completely totally false narrative by the local paper.”

In one of our editorials, we asked Joven which was it. He doesn’t have any government official emails to delete or he has 3,000-4,000 emails? And if it’s the latter, why hasn’t the OA received a single one pertaining to T2 despite at least two separate Texas Public Information Act requests?

We have since come to learn through the Texas Public Information Act that as of March 7, Joven had more than 11,000 emails in his government inbox, 186 in his sent file and nearly 1,200 had been deleted.

We’ve asked for those sent and deleted emails through a public information request. We won’t be surprised however if there aren’t any T2 emails among them. After all, the T2 contract instructs them to send all correspondence to [email protected] — which again, we’re still entitled to under the law.

One last thing on the subject, we requested all emails pertaining to hacked and leaked emails. We received tons of emails warning employees about phishing attempts. None complaining about leaked or hacked emails and none demanding or discussing an investigation. Odd don’t you think?

Again, back to Matta.

Here are some of the statements he made during the interview we find quite entertaining:

Statement 1:

“A few months ago or a few weeks ago the former daily paper that we have here, Odessa American, did a story to preempt this whole investigation.”

According to Oxford, the definition of preempt is “to take action in order to prevent an anticipated event from happening; forestall.”

Um, we weren’t trying to prevent anything from happening when we filed Texas Public Information Act requests and wrote stories based on those efforts.

We would argue that, if anything, the City took preemptive actions. The fact is, city officials refused to talk to us about why they hired Sheen and his law firm for $195-$375 per hour and they went to the Texas Attorney General’s Office to argue they shouldn’t have to divulge any documents. Ultimately, we won that battle March 29 and we received the email chain we talked about earlier that proves the HR department knew about the original investigation by Alvarez.

Statement 2:

“On one side you got the Odessa American, they’re trying to sell papers, they need to sell papers, they have declining subscriptions, subscribers. So they gotta do whatever they have to do to sell papers and making the story about the City of Odessa, the council, it gets people riled up. But it’s not always factual.”

We guess Mr. Matta doesn’t understand the purpose of newspapers or how they work. Let’s see if we can make this simple enough for him to understand. When news happens, we interview people, we obtain documents, we report what they convey and hopefully people see the importance of that and they pay for it. We didn’t abuse the OFR cadets. We didn’t try to hide the documents outlining the investigation and we didn’t stand in an open forum and give half the story. We honestly don’t know whose “facts” are correct. We simply reported both sides of the story. It’s up to the citizens of Odessa to decide who they want to believe. Thanks to us apparently riling YOU up Mr. Matta, they now have more details than they would have otherwise.

Statement 3:

“This is some of the issues that we were having (with Marrero). Just, you know, it’s one reason that we didn’t never broadcast this is because he still has the future ahead of him. I mean, he still has to be employed somewhere. So we didn’t want any of this to get out. We did this internally so we could find out what we needed to do to improve, to move forward, to improve the OFR, to improve all the departments in the city.”

Statement 4:

“But you know, whenever you have media requesting this information, and we have to give that out to them, you know, this stuff starts getting out and it is a good thing because the public needs to know about this also.”

These two comments were literally uttered in the same breath.

“We didn’t want any of this to get out” and “It is a good thing because the public needs to know.”

Matta is complaining on the one hand about having to release information to the media and then kinda sorta praising the media for getting the information out to the public.

Makes us wonder what other things are going on that fall under the same category.

Don’t worry. We’ll keep trying to ferret those things out despite the roadblocks.