ECUD appoints new board member, county judge to contact AG

Published: Nov. 13, 2023 at 8:08 PM CST
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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) - The Ector County Utility District elected a new board member to serve the remainder of former President Tommy Ervin’s term Monday morning.

The appointment of Tommy Brown comes amid growing concerns about board practices from local officials and West Odessa citizens.

On Nov. 8, locals weren’t allowed to enter the ECUD board meeting due to an occupancy limit. Inside that meeting, the board decided to postpone filling Ervin’s seat. Just days later, the board called a special meeting and went forward with Brown.

MORE: ECUD presidency to remain vacant, residents barred entry

They also reshuffled officers via nomination, making Stephanie Shaw the president and Brown the treasurer.

The ECUD board and west Odessa residents have been at odds for some time in a complicated story that includes questions about transparency and violating Texas government and water codes.

Judge Dustin Fawcett wants clarity.

That’s why he’s working with the Ector County attorney to ask for the attorney general’s opinion on ECUD’s adherence to the Open Meetings Act and its election process.

“Ultimately, it comes down to trust with taxpayers,” Fawcett said Monday afternoon. “What we saw today ,and what we saw last week, was a slap in the face of truth, transparency and accountability, and that’s been a hallmark of this organization for the past year.”

Last week, locals weren’t able to attend the meeting due to an occupancy limit attributed to the fire marshal. That remained a point of contention in today’s meeting.

“If anybody who was in charge of this place had any inkling and care for the people of West Odessa, they would arrange to have a meeting somewhere else so everybody could attend,” said John Kelley, a West Odessa resident.

ECUD board member Margaret Burton says she’s upset with the 23 person limit.

“I agree, we probably should’ve gone to another building. Because as you see,” Burton said motioning to the board’s meeting room. “This room is small and with staff, and with board members, that takes up 10, So that leaves 13 guests.”

This week, residents remain unsure what happened in the Nov. 8 meeting.

“I was under the impression– that was the meeting that we were locked out of,” West Odessa resident Will Kappauf said. “I was under the impression we were going to wait 30 days, take applications and then find the most qualified person.”

The board did discuss postponing on Nov. 8. Stephanie Shaw, the newly-elected board president, said they had to revote and move forward based on legal advice.

“I was not aware that it would take more than two people to pass it,” Shaw said. “Sheila did not vote for it. I assumed I was not allowed to vote. Later, I was instructed by our attorney that it did not carry.”

So they called a special meeting Monday morning and they appointed Brown, who was not present. He was called by Shaw and accepted the position and his nomination as treasurer via phone.

“I don’t know how good I’ll be at it,” Brown said in response to the treasurer offer. “I’ve never done it, but I can sure give it a try.”

Judge Fawcett questions if the board had the authority to appoint him. Fawcett asserts that due to a 1975 felony, Ervin was not legally holding a board position for several years.

“Texas government code and Texas water code are very clear in that any time a vacancy, at a water district or utility district board, is vacant for over 90 days [it] is incumbent upon the commissioner’s court to appoint that vacancy,” Fawcett said.

For Fawcett, that calls the selection of Brown into question, as well as the current board members who were appointed by Ervin.

The complicated nature of the situation and clarity needed for a remedy is why Fawcett is seeking the attorney general’s opinion. He plans to submit his request by the end of the week.