- Claire Osborn American-Statesman Staff
Hutto City Manager Odis Jones reacted to allegations of discrimination by announcing he fired the city’s human resources director, an assistant city manager and a senior planner because all three lacked the skills for the job.
When he began his job in December 2016, Jones told a press conference late Thursday, “the city had not reconciled its checkbooks in over eight months, the city’s pension obligations had not been reconciled in approximately two years and the City Council had not approved a financial statement in almost a year.”
“Clearly this meant to me we did not have the skill set to get that done,” Jones said. “I have taken actions to ensure we do.”
But the lawyer for the fired female employees, Millicent Lundburg, said before the press conference that they lost their jobs due to discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
Lundburg said the city’s former director of human resources, Amy McGlothlin and the former assistant city manager, Melanie Melancon, were fired in retaliation for reporting a complaint of sexual harassment and discrimination against Jones to the city’s mayor.
A former senior planner for Hutto, Wallis Meshier, was fired after she made a complaint about harassment, said Lundburg. Lundburg declined to say who Meshier said harassed her.
The three women sat silently with Lundburg at the press conference Thursday.
The former employees haven’t made formal complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission but plan to do so, Lundburg said. Lawsuits against the city could follow, she said. Lundburg said she sent a letter Thursday to the EEOC giving a summary of the complaints. The employees were fired in February and March.
McGlothlin had worked for the city for 13 years, Melancon had eight years of experience with the city, and Meshier had worked for the city for at least a year, Lundburg said.
Tension began to build during the press conference, which was held after a Hutto City Council meeting, when Lundburg said that city officials had refused to meet with her last week for a mediation conference about the claims. Mike Shaunessy, the attorney representing the city of Hutto, yelled out, “The claims are unfounded” and “We are not going to settle unfounded claims.”
Shaunessy also said the city manager’s actions were “proper and legitimate” and accused Lundburg of trying to create a news story “when there wasn’t any news.”
Lundburg said she wasn’t responsible for calling the press conference.
Hutto Mayor Doug Gaul also said during the press conference the decisions the city manager had made were “appropriate and just.”
“We stand by him in light of all these allegations,” Gaul said.
Three Hutto City Council members issued a press release Friday saying they supported Jones’ actions.
“After hearing the findings from the independent, third-party investigation, performed by McGinnis Lochridge, demonstrated that the city manager’s personnel decisions were appropriate and just, I stand firmly behind our city manager,” said Council Member Tom Hines. Council Members Anne Cano and Nate Killough also voiced their support.
But former Hutto Mayor Debbie Holland, speaking during the City Council meeting Thursday, said “the actions of our city manager are embarrassing and disturbing.” Terminations and resignations from the city since Jan. 1 have made citizens question what is happening, she said. Information about how many people have been fired or resigned from the city wasn’t available Friday.
Jones’ most recent previous job was as director of the Public Lighting Authority in Detroit.
His other jobs have included city administrator in Obetz, Ohio; executive director of economic development for Cincinnati; chief executive officer for the redevelopment agency in Columbus, Ohio; and the director of real estate and development for the state of New Jersey.
He replaced Hutto’s former city manager, Karen Daly, who resigned in January 2016 after being accused of having broken relationships with the Hutto school district, fire department and county officials.