A legal maneuver by the City of Odessa that sparked controversy over its attempt to claim a portion of the Ector County Assistance District sales tax revenue has backfired – with the Texas Attorney General (AG) issuing a legal opinion that appears to overwhelmingly favor Ector County. 

The issue arose during the recent Odessa City Council races over whether or not the county would lose sales tax from any areas that were in the county as of the day the assistance district but were subsequently annexed by the city.

After attempts led mostly by now prior city council members failed in trying to negotiate a deal publicly with county officials last year, controversy erupted when it was discovered that the city officials silently asked a lawmaker in a neighboring district to submit a request to the AG to rule on multiple questions that could cause the county to lose sales taxes. 

During a press conference led by then At-Large Council-member Peggy Dean and Mayor David Turner in response to the discovery of the city’s opinion request, county officials and residents expressed opposition to what appeared to be an attempted end-run around negotiations.  Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis, who was in attendance at the press conference, pointed out that his office relies heavily on assistance district funding as the main source of funding for law enforcement in the area.

In the opinion issued April 5, the AG answered three questions posed by the city, including that the county wasn’t required to give notice to the city to hold the county assistance district election, that a court would likely conclude the county is entitled to sales tax revenue from the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, and lastly, that the city wouldn’t be entitled to sales taxes from future annexations. 

“Neither statute nor equitable principles of law such as the contract with the voters or administrative action by the Texas Comptroller provide a basis to conclude that the District’s boundaries should exclude future land annexations by Odessa”, the AG opinion reads. 

Sheriff Mike Griffis was pleased to hear the news of the AG opinion and told Odessa Headlines in a statement “I feel that this confirms of my previous and present desire for Ector County and the City of Odessa to move forward as a community. This can be a ‘win-win’ for all of us.” 

Odessa Headlines spoke with Odessa’s new Mayor, Javier Joven, who said the most important thing going forward is that city and county leaders share a good working relationship and keep everything above board.  

“We have to remember at the end of the day, Odessa is Ector County, and Ector County is Odessa. I am glad this issue from the past administration is behind us so that we can build a strong relationship between both entities. Working together is how we will best serve our community”, Mayor Joven stated.

Matt Stringer is a journalist from Odessa, Texas.