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Posted on: September 1, 2020

Frequently Asked Questions: Baseless Claims Against City Manager Odis Jones

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Over the past two months, some media outlets and social media networks have reported false, reckless and irresponsible allegations regarding operational, financial and budget decisions City Manager Odis Jones made while he was CEO in Hutto, Texas.

“These reports and postings are appalling as the City of Missouri City’s executive search firm Baker Tilly conducted a thorough background check on City Manager Jones prior to Council approving his appointment and all accusations were vetted and disproved,” said Mayor Yolanda Ford. “The statements about these meritless issues are irresponsible and destructive to the lives of many innocent people, including Mr. Jones. The public needs to understand that the Hutto City Council voted unanimously to approve organizational changes that were made under Mr. Jones’s leadership and those votes included severance packages associated with organizational changes that Councilmembers had full knowledge of. It is completely irresponsible for individuals to continue to make disparaging remarks about Mr. Jones and their actions impact other employees who are still with the city.”

When Mr. Jones was appointed as City Manager of Hutto in 2016, he became the first African-American CEO of the municipality and was immediately faced with multiple challenges including: an IRS review, an insolvent utility fund, a lack of development in the area, a water crisis and a City that had not balanced its checkbook in seven months.

Through his leadership, all of the issues were successfully resolved over the next three years with Mr. Jones negotiating a water deal that will provide a supply for citizens for the next 100 years, leading an explosion of economic growth that produced more than $4 billion dollars of private sector investment, restoring fiscal solvency, lobbying the Texas Legislature to change the Hotel Bid tax law to allow State Hotel taxes to be used for the construction of Hutto’s planned Convention Center and Convention Hotel and restructuring and improving the City’s Police Department after inheriting an agency that had lost the confidence and faith of its residents. He hired a new Chief, reorganized the department and implemented the 21st Century Community Policing Modality which included establishing citizen advisory boards as well as new use-of-force guidelines within the department.

In January, Police Chief Paul Hall wrote in a letter of recommendation: “City Manager Jones is a great leader, mentor and man of integrity. During the time of transformation of the department, City Manager Jones gave protection to our department when we needed protection. Yet he mentored and challenged us to be great as we rebuilt a positive culture within our department and community. At times City Manager Jones took flak for our department. But he always did so with humbleness, grace and diplomacy. The department is truly grateful for Mr. Jones’s service as City Manager and he has made a lasting positive impact on our community.” See full letter here: https://bit.ly/3hOXjxZ.

Despite City Manager Jones’ results-oriented and nationally recognized efforts as a collaborative and seasoned executive with more than two decades of expertise in managing complex governmental operations and economic development organizations, a number of factions, including some in Hutto, have criticized his administration with erroneous and misleading claims and several have urged Missouri City to investigate the allegations.

“Missouri City doesn’t need to launch an investigation into this unsubstantiated and unfounded smear campaign against City Manager Jones,” Mayor Ford said. “He has repeatedly been exonerated of these false allegations and it is disturbing that the politically motivated campaigns continue and, for the record, they have been called racially motivated by former and sitting Councilmembers in Hutto.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Tom Hines, Councilman Scott Rose and former Councilmen Nate Killough and Tim Jordan issued a collaborative letter on Dec. 9, 2019 that read in part: “Mr. Jones was hired as a change agent by us and during his tenure in this position, Mr. Jones’ performance can only be described as exemplary with unquestionable ethics. As a result of his leadership, work ethic, public finance experience and collaborative consensus building skills…we as a City was able to renew financial stability to local government, acquire a water system for the City that will supply the City with water for the next 100 years, stimulate an explosion of economic growth within the City, and rebuild a Police Department that has endeared trust within our community. Unfortunately, during his tenure Mr. Jones has also come under political attack as the Council has flipped and the political adversaries of his previous City Council is now in control. He has gracefully took a lot of flak of which has been politically and sometimes racially motivated because of his ethnicity.” See full letter here: https://bit.ly/32CK5y0.

Regarding the baseless reports against his leadership in Hutto and his character as a public servant, City Manager Jones said: “I would like to reiterate again that any operational decisions I made while honorably serving the City of Hutto were done with the knowledge and approval of the City Council. This includes all severance agreements, budget amendments and strategic initiatives. I take my oath and ethical obligation as a City Manager very seriously and am offended by these ongoing untruthful and unjustified attacks.”

As Missouri City has received questions regarding the issues, staff has compiled a list of frequently asked questions to address the inquiries:

Is there any truth regarding the allegations on Mr. Jones’ involvement in orchestrating unauthorized severance agreements in City of Hutto?

No. In fact, at the August 27, 2020 Hutto, TX Special Meeting, City Council considered an ordinance (item 5.3) declaring severance or transition agreements void. During the discussion, Mayor Pro-Tem Hines said: “I just want everybody to know that Council was aware of these [agreements]. We were informed. The City Manager and City Attorney were conducting day-to-day business. We did approve all of these through budget amendments throughout the year.” To view the full conversation, click here: https://bit.ly/3gMcuqc.

Hutto City Council throughout the fiscal year amends the budget as needed, to reflect organizational changes, revision and addition of Capital Improvement Projects, purchase of equipment, and the inclusion of Public Improvement District Funds, and other miscellaneous adjustments, similar to most municipalities. The following Council meeting minutes included these specific related agenda items:

  • Sept. 6, 2018, agenda item 9F. Hutto Council approved 6-0 with Councilmember Nate Killough being absent: https://bit.ly/2QHGwRK
  • Oct. 17, 2019, agenda item 10E. Hutto Council unanimously approved the item 6-0: https://bit.ly/31ImkW4

What did auditor Whitley Penn say about missing money allegations in Hutto? 

Like most cities, Hutto authorizes financial audits to ensure transparency. At the March 30, 2020 Special Council meeting, Whitley Penn, LLP presented the annual audit (agenda item 8.1). Findings from the required annual audit determined that the City’s accounting policies and methods are appropriate and in accordance with industry standards, and that management had a reasonable basis for significant judgements and estimates that impact the financial statements. See the presentation here: https://bit.ly/2YS3c6i.

During Mr. Jones’ tenure, he received clean audits every year; see full details on the City of Hutto’s website here: https://www.huttotx.gov/departments/finance/financial_reports.php.

What have Hutto City officials and staff said about Mr. Jones leadership and character? 

Read full letters via these links:

During the hiring process was the City aware of any of the allegations in Hutto regarding Mr. Jones?

Yes; the allegations were thoroughly investigated in a background check by executive search firm Baker Tilly who found them to be inaccurate and unjustified.

Why was Mr. Jones the preferred candidate? 

Mr. Jones stood out as the top candidate due to his successful track record as a collaborative and seasoned executive with more than two decades of expertise in managing complex governmental operations and economic development organizations. He has managed a budget of more than $250 million and 1,500 employees during his career.

Is the City now concerned about hiring Mr. Jones after hearing the Hutto allegations? 

No.

Was Mr. Jones’ contract with Missouri City outsourced to a third party law firm?

No. The contract document was reviewed by the City’s Human Resources & Organizational Development and Legal teams in collaboration with Mayor Ford per the direction of City Council.

Is Mr. Jones’ contract similar to previous MCTX City Managers’ contracts? 

Yes. The employment contract is a past City contract that has been used by/with former City Managers and was collaboratively revised by Legal, Human Resources and Mayor Ford with input from City Council.

For more information about Missouri City, please watch the City website: www.missouricitytx.gov, like us on Facebook—fb/MissouriCityTX, follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat—@MissouriCityTX and Nextdoor, watch Missouri City Television (Ch. 16 on Comcast and Ch. 99 on AT&T U-verse) or download the MCTX Mobile app (available for free in Google Play and the Apple app store).

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