It seems like some type of bad behavior fever has infected some Odessa citizens’ public comments and behavior during recent City Council meetings.
It all began with local family law and self proclaimed civil rights attorney Gavin Norris’ attempts to disrupt the December 13, 2022 City Council meeting. On the agenda that night was the possible termination of City Manager Michael Marrero and City Attorney Natasha Brooks. From the opening gavel Norris was loud, disruptive, and disrespectful to the Odessa City Council and everyone else in the room. Hollering loudly from the back of the room Norris demanded attention. For Norris, it seems that disrespectful, outlandish behavior is becoming his norm and he has since reappeared in Council Chambers using the three minutes allowed citizens to address the Council to hurl silly and childish insults at our City Council members. It also seems Norris has infected other members of the local legal community as Anthony Robles recently appeared to rant, rave, and make unfounded accusations against our City Council. I can assure these illustrious members of the bar that had they behaved similarly in any of our District Courts they would have found themselves with a contempt citation. Norris has continued his bullying tactics online and has even threatened several community members with lawsuits if they don’t cease and desist from posting negative comments about him. It would seem that, if he really is the civil rights champion he claims to be, Norris would understand that freedom of speech is chief among our civil rights.
Next up is now former Downtown Odessa, Inc. executive Director Casey Hallmark Williams. During the same December 13th meeting Williams approached the podium and began to hurl a litany of unfounded accusations at several Council members. During her rant she accused Mayor Joven of telling her to watch her back as the Odessa Police Department was full of murderers. Williams also accused Councilmembers Matta, Swanner, and Hanie of being hostile towards her including getting in her face and yelling at her during the City Christmas parade. During a later Council meeting Williams again found her way to the microphone and proceeded to drop the F-Bomb – not once but twice. After these incidents Williams apparently took a two week taxpayer funded vacation and then tendered her resignation. An independent investigation of her claims is ongoing and it will be interesting to see this report’s findings once completed.
Finally, there are the overtly racist remarks made by failed County Commissioner candidate Savannah Morales. Morales launched a full scale attack on Mayor Joven calling him a “coconut” – a clearly racist slur meant to imply that while Joven, a Hispanic, was brown on the outside, he was white on the inside. Morales was clear in her comments that Joven didn’t act “brown” enough to suit her and didn’t follow her own obvious prejudice of separating people by color. Morales was recently named head of the Odessa Hispanic Chamber – a group that for many years has been plagued by poor management and dogged by allegations of financial improprieties.
Like the angry mouthpieces that we see daily on the national stage I suppose that Norris, Williams, Robles, and Morales believe that if they bully others, hurl insults loudly enough or make enough unfounded scandalous accusations against those with whom they don’t agree that they will be able to achieve their goals of pitting everyone against everyone else. It is their tactics that are tearing down the borders of mutual respect and understanding that have served our nation so well and are adding to the increasingly violent nature of our society. While these bad actors claim they are working hard for some greater good, the reality is that their actions are nothing more than an embarrassment to our city.