During two previous Odessa City Council meetings, former Downtown Odessa, Inc. (DOI) Director Casey Hallmark alleged numerous instances of bullying and intimidation by Odessa Mayor Joven and Odessa City Councilmen Mark Matta and Chris Haney.
As a result of Hallmark’s allegations, the city hired Tommy Sheen, a Lubbock based attorney, to conduct a thorough independent investigation of Hallmark’s claims.
During Tuesday’s City Council meeting Sheen delivered his findings to the council and methodically detailed the steps he undertook in the investigation.
Sheen pointed out that all witness statements were taken under oath during the investigation, subjecting them to the same criminal perjury laws that are used to interview witnesses in a court room.
Sheen first addressed the allegations Hallmark made against Joven.
During her two appearances at the speaker stand, Hallmark alleged that Joven had bullied and threatened her and had said that he would “be happy to accept your letter of resignation”.
Hallmark later embellished her statements to local media and a Texas Monthly reporter to include charges that Joven had refused to address her by her maiden name of Hallmark after her marriage and further claimed that Joven had visited her office for sometimes hours at a time and told her to “watch her back” because the Odessa Police department was “full of murderers.” During her statement to Sheen, Hallmark also claimed that Joven had discussed the cover up of the death of a prostitute injured by OPD.
In his presentation to Council, Sheen brought forward the eyewitness testimony of Alexa Moulakis who had witnessed the exchange Joven had with Hallmark in her office in February 0f 2022.
Moulakis, who also worked for Downtown Odessa, stated that she set outside door of Hallmark’s office approximately 20 feet away and could clearly hear the conversation through Hallmark’s open door. Moulakis confirmed that Joven’s entire conversation lasted approximately 2 hours and testified that the Mayor did not make any statements regarding “crooks” and people who cannot be trusted around Odessa. Moulakis further denies that Joven made any mention of the OPD being “full of murderers” or of an OPD cover up of the death of a prostitute. Moulakis did state that she heard the Mayor say “prostitute” but in the context of efforts to clean up illicit behavior on Second Street.
In her testimony, Moulakis characterized the conversation as exhibiting a “get-to-know-you” tenor and did not witness any threats or raised voices. Moulakis further stated that during her time as interim director of DOI prior to the hiring of Hallmark that she had met with Joven on multiple occasions that, while she and the Mayor may have held dissimilar political views, Joven supported her work and treated her respectfully.
While giving her statement, Moulakis volunteered information regarding the working conditions under Hallmark.
Moulakis described Hallmark as an unpolished and aggressive person who was not a “people person” and said Hallmark had an aggressive micromanaging management style.
She also stated that Hallmark had bullied her on multiple occasions and had a habit of taking credit for wins and passed the blame for losses onto others. Moulakis, who no longer works for the city, also stated that she believes Hallmark was responsible for spreading rumors and accusations about certain Council members having an affair with other city staff.
Sheen also addressed the allegation regarding Joven asking for Hallmark’s resignation noting that Joven, in his sworn statement, denied ever making this statement and further noted that nothing in the city charter or the DOI bylaws would allow a mayor the ability to hire, fire, or discipline a DOI employee.
According to Sheen’s investigation, Hallmark’s allegations of bullying by Councilman Matta stemmed from postings made on a Facebook page called “Odessa Whisteblowers”. This page made sexual accusations against several Councilmembers and had only two members, one of which was Hallmark. Due to the scandalous sexual nature of the posts made, Matta did state that he felt the need to rebuff Hallmark for her association with the Odessa Whisteblowers page but at no time did he attempt to bully Hallmark or get her fired. Sheen stated that no evidence – in the form of emails or any other evidence from Hallmark – substantiated Hallmark’s charges against Matta.
Next up were the allegations Hallmark made against Hanie.
Hallmark alleged that Hanie had gotten within 5-6 inches of her face at the Christmas parade on December 3, 2022. Hanie, she claimed, was upset over the wording on the car banner DOI provided him listing him as “Councilperson”. Hallmark claimed that Hanie, a devout and conservative Christian, had screamed into her face “I am not a fuc*** ‘councilperson.’ I am a councilman.”
Sheen’s investigation discovered that there were several witnesses who saw and heard the exchange between Sheen and Hanie. Hanie’s description of his exchange between him and Hallmark as being in a low conversational tone where he requested to be addressed as a Councilman and not person was observed by Alyssa Deutsch, Hanie’s stepdaughter, and Bobby Swanner, Councilwoman’s Swanner’s husband. Deutsch was standing approximately five feet away from Hanie during the exchange and stated that Hanie did not raise his voice nor get in Hallmark’s face. Bobby Swanner stated he was approximately fifteen feet away and likewise did not hear Hanie raise his voice nor get in Hallmark’s face. Based upon these two eyewitness accounts, Sheen concluded that Hallmark’s claims against Hanie were unsubstantiated.
As he concluded, Sheen stated that his firm was “unable to find sufficient evidence to corroborate the allegations levied by Casey Hallmark against Mayor Joven, Councilman Mark Matta and Councilman Chris Hanie.”
Hallmark, who has continued to repeat and add to her story over past months, was in attendance at the City Council meeting but offered no statements or rebuttals during the meeting.