• February 19, 2019

FOI uncovers OPD report of Hamilton threatening interim city attorney - Odessa American: City Of Odessa

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FOI uncovers OPD report of Hamilton threatening interim city attorney

Police record details attorney feared an assault

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  • Malcolm Hamilton at City Council

    District 1 City Councilman Malcolm Hamilton listens to comments during a presentation at the Feb. 28 City Council meeting.

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Posted: Friday, January 25, 2019 5:50 pm

A freedom of information request revealed an October police report that details that interim City Attorney Gary Landers said he was threatened and feared a physical assault by Odessa City Councilman Malcolm Hamilton and that Landers wanted the incident documented in a police report.

This revelation comes after months of denials and downplaying of the incident from city and police officials, in which District 4 Council Member Mike Gardner had to intervene while Hamilton was calling Landers a “piece of shit” following an October city council meeting.

The Odessa American obtained the police report after city officials sought for months to withhold it even challenging the request to the Texas Attorney General’s Office and denying to OA reporters that any report existed.

The report states that Odessa Police Officer Howard Golden, Mayor David Turner’s son-in-law, was notified by City Spokesperson Andrea Goodson that he needed to follow her to the city secretary’s office on Oct. 9, where he reportedly could hear a verbal disturbance from inside the council briefing room.

Hamilton, the report details, was yelling at Landers, saying “fuck you piece of shit! You need to respect me more! Piece of shit!” the report detailed. Hamilton reportedly grabbed his coat and walked out as Golden entered the room. Golden’s narrative in the report details that he followed Hamilton down to the parking lot to ensure no further disturbances.

Golden’s report went from his first person narrative to his interview with Landers who later told the officer that Hamilton was loud and short-tempered with him during the council meeting after Hamilton felt that he didn’t adequately answer a question from someone in attendance, and Landers reported that Hamilton leaned over to him and said “we’re going to talk about this.”

Landers told the officer that Hamilton began to scream at him while clinching his fists and quickly closing distance towards him, the report stated. Hamilton reportedly accused him of treating him differently than other council members and demanded that Landers show him respect, and Landers adamantly denied knowing what Hamilton was referring to, which the report detailed made Hamilton more angry and aggressive.

Hamilton then reportedly began clinching his fists again while stating “say it again.” This part of the argument can be heard on an audio recorded by an Odessa American reporter on the night of the incident. Hamilton’s voice reportedly grew so loud that Gardner had to remove Hamilton from the room, before Hamilton returned shortly afterward calling Landers a “piece of shit.”

Landers reported to the officer that he felt Hamilton was going to physically assault him so he chose to remain quiet to avoid any further confrontation, the report stated.

The report details that Landers told the officer Hamilton continued this verbal barrage on three separate occasions, with the last time occurring in front of other council members as the officer entered the room. Landers told the officer he believed this stemmed from a closed door meeting the week prior between he and Hamilton. Hamilton reportedly accused Landers of treating him differently and was upset about not receiving things he requested from Landers, who told Hamilton he never received requests from Hamilton and didn’t know what he was referring to.

Landers reportedly told the officer he felt threatened and wanted this all documented. When previously asked about what happened, Landers said he felt comfortable at City Hall.

City hall officials, elected officials and public information officers for the city and OPD have downplayed the incident for months.

OPD Spokesman Steve LeSueur previously denied the existence of a report being filed. Goodson at one point said she had heard rumors of the incident, but according to the police report, actually witnessed a good deal of it.

City Manager Michael Marrero has repeatedly downplayed the incident, calling it a discussion. Neither Gardner nor Bryant denied the incident, but both at the time declined to comment.

After being read the report on Friday, Hamilton called it “very inaccurate.”

“I didn’t say anything about ‘you’re going to respect me,’ ” Hamilton said. “What was said was if you’re not going to treat other council members like this, then you are not going to treat me like this.”

Hamilton denied clinching his fists, and said Gardner was not in the room, but Marrero was, and that Marrero at no point had to get between him and Landers. He further denied having to be escorted out of the room, and said he left after he said what he needed to say to Landers.

Bryant walked into the room during the argument, Hamilton said, asking for them to tone it down, and Hamilton said he apologized to Bryant for being loud and told Landers he didn’t care if he didn’t like him.

“As long as you’re employed here, and you are the city attorney, then you will not treat me like that,” Hamilton said he told Landers.

Hamilton said if a physical assault was going to occur, it would have occurred, and said he was standing about four to five feet away from Landers. He added that the officer walked in as he was walking out, after he apologized to everyone in the room, and was unsure how much the officer actually heard.

“Maybe I should file charges against every individual who has made that statement, because it’s very inaccurate and very false,” Hamilton said.

When speaking about the incident some months back, Hamilton confirmed he had talked to Landers after the meeting about not adequately answering a question, and that he and Landers had apologized to each other.

“You have to think if you’re competent enough to possess a law degree, then you’re competent enough to know when you’re being insubordinate, and he was being extremely insubordinate and he knew this,” Hamilton said. “We shook hands, both apologized and said it could have been handled better.”

Hamilton said he was never made aware of this report. Landers said the day the report was sent out he had to make Goodson and the city council aware of the information, but Hamilton said Landers never contacted him about it.

“If this was such a concern for the city manager and the city attorney, why was I never notified of anything, and why did I never hear about this?” Hamilton asked. “All of a sudden I have to hear about it from you guys. So are they actually doing their job, or are they there for self-interest?”

The Texas AG’s office ordered the city last week to hand over the report to the Odessa American after the AG sided with the OA’s request for what is clearly public information. The letter from the Attorney General stated that some information from the report could be withheld due to an ongoing criminal investigation by OPD.

LeSueur on Friday said he was not aware if the investigation was still ongoing. The City’s argument also cited attorney-client privilege as reasoning for withholding the information.

The obtained police report also shows a statement was taken from city employee Steven Davis, which was not included in the FOI information that city made available.

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