Mayor accuses city staff of underminingEarly swearing-in ceremony was on Tuesday afternoon

first_img Facebook TAGS  By Digital AIM Web Support – December 23, 2020 Odessa’s new mayor was sworn in Tuesday and by Wednesday was accusing city staff of intentionally undermining him while also saying he and two new council members were ‘suspicious’ that they were not consulted about a scheduled Jan. 12 swearing-in. City officials had already scheduled a public swearing-in ceremony during council’s next regular business meeting on Jan. 12, but new Mayor Javier Joven said he, Denise Swanner and Mark Matta became suspicious and concerned that their swearing-in would not occur until a month after the Dec. 15 runoff election, Joven said. Election results were officially certified Tuesday. Joven also accused the city’s public information department of intentionally trying to undermine him by not notifying the public in a timely manner that he and two new council members were being sworn into office on Tuesday. The press notice, which Joven said he wrote himself, was distributed more than two hours after the private swearing-in ceremony took place for Joven and new council members Matta and Swanner. The ceremony was held at 3 p.m. at the Ector County Courthouse. “The truth is that Devin Sanchez (the city’s public relations director) has had a problem with me for a while and I think wanted to make me look bad,” Joven said. However, Sanchez was not at work on Tuesday as her father died that morning. She is off work and could not be reached for comment for this story. An assistant in the public information office issued the press release at 5:17 p.m. and that assistant confirmed Sanchez was not in the office on Tuesday and had no involvement in the press release. Joven offered no proof that Sanchez or anyone else in the office was undermining him. Typically, elected officials directly contact the media and don’t involve public information officers who work for the city manager directly and not the city council or mayor. Joven’s comments sparked outrage from some councilmembers. “That’s just not fair,” Councilman Steve Thompson said. “Her father died. She wasn’t involved with what happened. I don’t know about any problems between the two, but what he said was wrong. I don’t like it.” Councilmember Mari Willis said she has always found the department to be courteous and professional. Joven wasn’t aware of the death of Sanchez’s father, but said it was still the department’s responsibility to announce the swearing-in ceremony in a timely manner. “Maybe there was nothing nefarious about that,” Joven responded. “I’ll accept responsibility for what happened. I should have walked the news release through myself.” City staff members say the information wasn’t given to them prior to 4:30 p.m. City Manager Michael Marrero has previously said that the city doesn’t normally write or issue press releases on behalf of individual council members, unless they make a personal request. Marrero did not respond to requests for comment on this story. Joven said he asked Marrero if the city could release the notice for him but didn’t address why he didn’t do it himself. The issue is especially contentious because Joven, Swanner and Matta, who campaigned together, repeatedly criticized city administrators and the previous council saying they were not being transparent. Swanner and Matta did not respond to numerous phone and text messages seeking comment. On Tuesday Joven said he contacted sitting councilmembers individually by phone to inform them that Swanner, Matta and he had agreed to have a private swearing-in ceremony. Only a small group of family members and friends were invited. He said the decision was based on several reasons, including concerns that a public ceremony would become complicated due to the need for social distancing and face coverings due to COVID-19 concerns, Joven said. Joven, who has previously stated publicly that he personally does not support wearing face coverings, acknowledged that he and his family did not wear face coverings during the ceremony. All other guests did wear coverings, he said. Councilmember Mari Willis on Tuesday confirmed Joven called her to inform her that ceremony plans had changed from the next council meeting in January to Tuesday. “I wasn’t invited, so I didn’t go,” Willis said. “I don’t know why they felt there was a need to do this; it’s not like there’s much going on during the holidays. You’ll have to ask them that. The city manager is there to run day-to-day operations.” Thompson said he didn’t receive a call from Joven until after 4 p.m. – an hour after the ceremony had already concluded. “I didn’t have a problem with it,” Thompson said. “If they wanted a private ceremony, that’s their choice. Like I told Mayor Joven yesterday, I want council to work together. I don’t know what their (Joven, Swanner and Matta’s) agenda is. My only agenda is to try and work with council to move the city forward and do what’s best for the community.” Councilmembers Tom Sprawls and Detra White could not be reached for comment. Joven defended the Tuesday ceremony saying there was no reason to wait despite the fact that the council doesn’t meet again until January. “There’s a lot of work ahead of us and we thought it would be best to assume office as soon as possible. “What if something major happened during the holidays? There would be a vacuum in leadership; there would be confusion – who would be called, former Mayor Turner, or myself?” Day to day operations are handled by city staff and policy is set by the elected mayor and council members. The mayor and individual council members cannot set policy without a vote by the council. There are six council members and the mayor who must vote to set policy for the city. Facebook Twitter WhatsApp Twittercenter_img Local NewsGovernment Pinterest Previous articleOAT122420_OdessaCollegeVisionFor2030Next articleMovie villain to real-life hero: AI poised to become humankind’s most powerful tool Digital AIM Web Support Mayor accuses city staff of underminingEarly swearing-in ceremony was on Tuesday afternoon WhatsApp Pinterestlast_img read more

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