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Despite public comment, Odessa City Council votes again to terminate city manager, attorney

The meeting comes after a lawsuit by Gaven Norris alleged the council did not properly allow public comment.

ODESSA, Texas — The City of Odessa is holding a meeting to allow public comment on the employment status of the city attorney and city manager.

Natasha Brooks and Michael Marrero were fired at the beginning of December, but attorney Gaven Norris filed a lawsuit shortly before Christmas alleging the city did not properly allow public comment before the decision was made.

Now at 9 a.m. on Monday, the city will be hearing from the public before deciding once and for all whether the two will be dismissed.

The room was filled with people, many who came out to voice their opinion on the situation. Some were questioning why brand new council members would be forced to vote on the employment status of employees they had barely met.

Others spoke their concerns about Mayor Joven abusing his ability to sway new council members to vote as he saw fit despite Marrero's high marks on his evaluations.

Many brought up his signing of the expensive consulting firm contract without the feedback of other council members.

Gaven Norris himself was there as well, telling the city council that "it shouldn't take a lawsuit" for the council to do the right thing. He also reiterated he would continue to file lawsuits against the city.

Former city council member Mari Willis also spoke, saying that from the moment she had heard what had happened she knew there was a violation. 

Willis specifically addressed Chris Hanie, the person who took over for District 5, saying she was disappointed in the new council members and had thought her district would be in good hands with him until this.

Former District 4 council member Tom Sprawls also addressed the council, concerned about how much their actions could be costing the city.

Prior to voting to terminate Brooks and Marrero, council member Thompson expressed his disappointment with the whole situation, saying he resents the whole process and believes the council is not being honest.

Brooks and Marrero were once again terminated in two 5-2 votes. Thompson and Vasquez were the two who voted against.

Following their termination, the council moved on to the discussion of interim positions.

Willis once again took the stand, questioning why the council overlooked the qualified assistant city manager in favor of spending so much money to train Agapito Bernal for the interim.

In the end, the council voted again 5-2 to place Dan Jones and Agapito Bernal in the interim attorney and city manager positions respectively. The search will begin to find people to take over the positions permanently.

Following the meeting, Joven spoke on his thoughts about the situation and how he saw these firings as a way to move the city forward.

Joven emphasized an alleged lack of communication previously and the need to address affordable housing, road quality and a potential sports complex that committees two years ago did not green light.

Sprawls spoke with NewsWest 9 after the vote, calling the initial inability to speak a travesty and criticizing how much money the city must have had to pay after the judge called the second meeting.

He also says he is still interested in learning why the council members voted to fire the two, saying he hasn't heard any reasons for why any of them wanted them gone.

NewsWest 9 has full coverage of this meeting and will keep you up to date with the latest.

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