10:10 p.m. update: Hutto City Manager Odis Jones — responding to claims of discrimination made against him — said he fired three female city employees because they did not have the right skill sets for their jobs. He said he had been hired by the City Council to “clean house” and what he had inherited was a “mess.” The city had not balanced its checkbooks in eight months when he took office, Jones said.
Mike Shaunessy, the attorney representing the city of Hutto, said the former employees’ claims they were fired due to retaliation were “unfounded.” He said one of the employees, Melanie Melancon, had been promoted to assistant city manager after Jones became the city manager in December so she could help with an audit. Melancon showed during that time she did not have the skills for the job, Shaunessy said.
The attorney representing the three fired employees, Millicent Lundburg, said after Shaunessy spoke during a press conference that the three women did have the right skills for their jobs. One of the employees who was fired had made a complaint about harassment, Lundburg said. Lundburg said the other two employees were fired after they told the mayor about a sexual harassment and discrimination complaint against Jones. Lundburg declined to say whether the complaints were related.
She said all of the employees who were fired had experienced a work environment that was hostile to women at the city of Hutto. The three fired employees have not yet filed formal complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission but Lundburg said they plan to do so. Lawsuits against the city could follow, she said.
9 p.m. update: City of Hutto officials have not yet spoken to reporters to provide details on allegations they said were recently made against their new city manager, Odis Jones, but the issue may be related to claims of discrimination, harrassment and retaliation made by three fired city employees.
A lawyer for the three former employees said she filed a letter with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Thursday that includes a broad summary of the employees’ claims. Formal complaints to the EEOC have not yet been made.
Attorney Millicent Lundburg said former Hutto Human Resources Director Amy McGlothlin and former Assistant City Manager Melanie Melancon were fired in retaliation for participating in a harrassment investigation against Jones. Another former city employee, Wallis Meshier, a senior planner, was fired for reporting a harassment and discrimination complaint to her supervisor instead of Jones, said Lundburg.
Lundburg said she contacted Hutto city officials last week to request a meeting to discuss an “amicable resolution” but officials refused to meet with her. Lundburg said she came to the City Council meeting Thursday because “we want to work with the city.”
“The city council needs to understand my clients’ version,” she said.
Earlier: The city of Hutto will hold a press conference at 8:30 p.m. Thursday to discuss allegations against their new city manager, Odis Jones.
City spokeswoman Jill Cloud declined to say what the allegations were but said the city was informed about them Thursday afternoon.
Hutto Mayor Doug Gaul made comments in a city press release about the press conference that apparently referred to a personnel decision made by the city manager.
“The city has been made aware of allegations, and we, the City Council, stand with the City Manager; the decisions he made were appropriate, just and in the best interests of the City,” Gaul stated in the press release.
“We have reviewed the allegations and we are convinced the decisions of the City Manager were well founded, based on having personnel in place that can best help the city as we move forward and the employment actions were carried out in a professional manner,” Gaul said.
Jones came on board as city manager in December, bringing with him extensive experience in economic development in Michigan, Ohio and New Jersey.
His 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.
Jones 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.
Follow reporter Claire Osborn on Twitter @cosbo4 for updates from tonight’s press conference.