Police presence at Odessa City Hall leads to questions

ODESSA -- A police officer has been permanently assigned to city hall in Odessa, following a heated argument between an elected city council member and the city attorney, according to CBS7’s media partners at the Odessa American.

Odessa City Hall. (CBS 7 File Photo)

On October 9th, a heated argument could be heard behind the Odessa City Council’s chambers between District 1 City Councilman Malcolm Hamilton, and Interim City Attorney Gary Landers.

The OA reporter who broke the story, Paul Wedding, described the argument.

“You could kind of hear him yelling, ‘do it again,’ a couple of times. And a couple of things that weren’t clear,” he said.

An OA reporter at the city council meeting recorded the conversation. But it didn’t end there, according to multiple anonymous sources who informed the paper.

“We also heard that Malcolm had been escorted out by police. And apparently, Gary had asked for an officer to be stationed at city hall in the lobby. And so we noticed there was a cop in the lobby of city hall, and were wondering why that was,” Wedding said.

And the story continued to grow.

“We had one main anonymous source who was aware of the situation. And then I had a couple of different people reach out to us, out of the blue, not even knowing we were doing the story. So that’s when we were like something must be going on here,” he said.

Wedding reached out to every city council member, the city manager, and all other elected and city officials, he said.

“I didn’t get much feedback at all. They pretty much universally tried to downplay the situation discussion, or they wouldn’t deny the situation, but they’d refuse to comment,” he said.

Wedding also attempted to speak with Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke, but was told by Corporal Steve LeSueur, that the chief would not answer any questions pertaining to the argument.

City spokesperson Andrea Goodson ultimately told him that the officer was stationed at the courthouse to increase safety.

“Basically said it’s some kind of pilot program and they wanted to increase safety in public areas. And that was the best answer we got out of them,” he said.

Wedding said he reached out to Councilman Hamilton again at 2 p.m. on Friday, before the story was published. And as of around 5 p.m. on Friday, did not received a response.

Wedding said the OA has requested all documentation relating to the incident through the Freedom of Information Act, and will continue to pursue the story.