Missouri City fires City Manager Odis Jones

SESHADRI KUMAR
Jones
Missouri City Council voted 5-2 during the Monday, April 26 Special Virtual Meeting to terminate the employment of City Manager Odis Jones. Councilmembers also voted (5-0; 2 members were not present) to appoint Assistant City Manager Bill Atkinson as Interim City Manager.

Atkinson has served in the role for 14 years. Additionally, Councilmembers authorized staff to take the necessary steps to move forward with a City Manager search.

Those who voted to terminate Jones included Mayor Robin Elackatt, and Councilmembers Lynn Clouser, Jeffrey Boney, Anthony Maroulis and Floyd Emery.

Councilmembers Vashaundra Edwards and Cheryl Sterling voted against the motion to fire Jones.

The firing of Jones is on familiar lines. His hiring was by a split vote by the majority faction of the then city council, led by former Mayor Yolanda Ford.

Missouri City’s council meeting to hire a city manager at a special session on July 6, 2020 was as unusual as the foursome’s firing of former City Manager Anthony Snipes on Feb. 24, 2020.

The efforts to fire Snipes and hire Jones were led by Ford. Councilwoman Vashaundra Edwards made a motion to appoint Odis Jones “as our new city manager.” Councilman Chris Preston, At-Large Position 2, seconded the motion. Ford and Sterling voted yes. Boney and Emery voted no and Maroulis abstained.

Firing of Snipes became a major campaign issue. Ford and Preston lost their re-election bid, while Edwards won.

Sterling won the District A seat in November 2019 and the seat is up for election in November this year.

The new administration under Mayor Robin Elackatt was under political pressure to fire Jones as soon as the election was over and the defeat of Ford and Preston was perceived as a referendum on the city manager issue.

But, the council apparently did its its due diligence and took its decision after a formal performance review of the city manager.

The discussions were in closed session and no cause has been cited in the press release announcing Jones' termination.

The employment contract provides for termination without cause and if any financial settlement is part of the termination is not known at this time.

City of Hutto

It is pertinent to note here that Odis Jones filed a lawsuit against his former employer, City of Hutto, its Councilmembers Mike Snyder and Tanner Rose, and Hutto City Manager Warren Hutmacher, on Dec. 10, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin division.

The lawsuit is in response to the City of Hutto rescinding its separation agreement with Jones.

The Hutto City Council voted on Dec. 2 to void the $412,000 separation agreement with its Jones. On Dec. 4, the city of Hutto’s legal counsel served a demand notice on Jones’ attorney asking that $412,000 received by Jones as a result of the settlement be returned by Dec. 10.

The lawsuit alleges “Defendants City of Hutto, Mike Snyder and Tanner intentionally discriminated against Plaintiff Odis Jones because of his race by treating Plaintiff differently than any previous City Manager; by unlawfully attempting to modify the Separation Agreement between Plaintiff and Defendants; by unlawfully attempting to avoid the payment obligations of the Separation Agreement and Employment Agreement between Plaintiff and Defendants; by unlawfully discharging Plaintiff amidst allegations of misconduct, stigmatizing him and foreclosing him from other employment opportunities without offering him the opportunity of a name-clearing hearing.”

Jones was hired as the City Manager of Hutto in 2016. Jones was paid an annual salary of $275,000, plus an annual 3% cost of living increase to be applied upon the annual anniversary date of the Agreement. Then Employment Agreement provided that in the event the City terminated Jones without “Cause”, Jones “shall receive a severance payment equal to twelve months’ base salary and the cost of continuation of group health plan benefits under the City’s group health plans.”