With Monday, August 22, being the last day to file to run for certain local public offices including two positions on the Ector County Utility District Board of Directors (ECUD) current directors, Will Kappauf and Troy Walker filed to run for to re-election to their unpaid board seats. In addition, another candidate, Sheila Black, also filed to run for the at large positions. The two candidates who receive the most votes will be sworn in after the November 8, 2022 election.

According to the ECUD bylaws and the Texas Water Code, to serve on ECUD’s Board a candidate must be either a registered voter in the district or own property subject to taxation by the district.

One West Odessa resident however, Jesse Christesson, who lives and owns property in the district and is a registered voter, filed a challenge questioning Black’s eligibility to run in the election. 

In Mr. Christesson’s challenge, he stated he searched for her voter registration address in the district, and for her property ownership subject to taxation by ECUD, and that he could find neither.

The challenge of Black’s eligibility was emailed Wednesday afternoon to ECUD’s Board members Tommy Ervin, Margaret Burton, Stephanie Shaw, Will Kappauf, and Troy Walker, and was also copied to Ector County Elections Administrator Lisa Sertuche.

Early Thursday morning, Sertuche forwarded Christesson’s email to ECUD’s Attorney Bill Fowler stating, “I looked up Sheila Black she resides at 112 Casa Grande Dr. Precinct 302”. This address is located inside Loop 388 in the City of Odessa and is outside of the ECUD District. ECAD records show that 112 Casa Grande is owned by S.K. Black and has a current homestead exemption.

In response to Mr. Christesson’s challenge and the information obtained from the Ector County Elections Office, Fowler emailed Black and requested that she provide proof of ownership of property in the district or her voter registration.

In the emails obtained by Odessa Headlines, Black did not provide the proof as requested, she did respond to Fowler and the others on the original email from Christesson. Black’s reply stated four points:

  • She purchased her new home at 2501 N Torrance Ave in February from her niece and has been in the process of moving to that location since then. However, records at the Ector County Appraisal District (“ECAD”) shows that Black is not on the title of the mobile home at 2501 N Torrance Ave. but instead lists her niece on the title.  ECAD records also show that the property on which the mobile home sits is owned by Ms. Pond’s parents.
  • Further, Black states she also owns a piece of land in the district at 5536 W 16th Street with her brother and sister.  ECAD records show this property is owned by “Mike Stewart et al (“others”). A check by Odessa Headlines of the Ector County Clerk and ECAD showed they have no documents to reference who the owners are in their systems, except for Mike Stewart.
  • Ms. Black also stated that the property at 5536 W 16th Street has ECUD water, and she has been paying 100% of the taxes to her brother since 2003. However, The ECAD website shows the property is not subject to taxation by the district, which is required to be a part of the ECUD District.
  • Finally, Ms. Black states that on Thursday August 18th, 2022 – just days before the close of the election filing period – she officially changed her address on her driver’s license and voter registration. Ms. Black further stated, “I do not believe I should have to attach my drivers license information to an email, but I am willing to show it in person to any official that questions my eligibility.”

Odessa Headlines requested comment and further information from ECUD Board President Tommy Ervin regarding the verification of Ms. Black’s eligibility to stand for election but as of publication has not responded.  Odessa Headlines also requested additional clarifications from the Ector County Elections office but has received no reply.

Mr. Christesson spoke with Odessa Headlines regarding his complaint and stated that he is greatly concerned about Black’s qualifications and urged a thorough investigation to be made to ensure the election is completely in compliance with state elections laws.

“I urge the ECUD Board to thoroughly investigate Ms. Black’s eligibility to hold this important position, Christesson said, adding “ECUD taxpayers deserve to have proper representation.”

The ballot draw to determine the order of names on the ballot will be held on Friday, August 26, 2002 at the ECUD District Office, 1039 N Moss.

Odessa Headlines will continue to monitor this story and will provide updates as they become available.