Hutto responds to ‘gender harassment’ allegations against city manager

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The City of Hutto called a press conference tonight to respond to discrimination allegations filed today against City Manger Odis Jones.

Hutto City Manager Odis Jones

Hutto City Manager Odis Jones

Jones, who was hired in mid-November, has been at the helm of city government while Hutto executed several personnel changes.

Charges were filed by the lawfirm of DuBois, Bryant and Campbell on behalf of three female employees who were terminated by Jones.

The former employees included in the allegations are Wallis Meshier, who served as the city’s senior planner, Melanie Melancon, who served as the city’s assistant city manager, and Amy McGlothlin, who served as the city’s human resources director.

On Thursday, Millicent Lundburg, the attorney representing the three women, filed an unverified Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge of discrimination and a charge with the Texas Workforce Commission on behalf of each of her clients. EEOC and TWC must first investigate the charges before a formal lawsuit can be filed, according to Lundburg.

The charges are written as a summary of the events without going too specifically into details. Lundburg did describe the situation as “gender harassment,” claiming that two of her clients were terminated for being involved in the investigation of harassment charges and one was terminated because she reported harassment to her superior.

“The city has been made aware of allegations, and we, the City Council, stand with the City Manager; the decisions he has made were appropriate, just and in the best interests of the City,” Hutto Mayor Doug Gaul said in a statement.

Lundburg said during the public comment portion of tonight’s Hutto City Council meeting that she requested the city meet with her lawfirm for a settlement agreement, but the city did not agree to the request.

“Litigation is incredibly emotional,” Lundburg said. “Especially employment litigation, I compare it to divorce. Everyone knows that in divorce you put the kids first. And here, you put the city of Hutto first.”

According to Lundburg, three separate lawsuits would be filed should the charges reach that level. The attorney retained by the city said Hutto would defend its side of the story in court.

At the Hutto press conference, Jones said the employees were terminated because they lacked the skillsets to continue advancing the city.

“I made the decisions to terminate those employees because they did not fit with the direction of the City Council,” Jones said. “We needed skill sets in this city that allow for us to both grow as a city from a business-friendly perspective but also to ensure that we can manage our financial affairs in a way that we are transparent to the public.”

In the city’s press conference, Gaul said he stood firmly behind the personnel decisions that Jones executed during his tenure as city manager.

City Council Member Bettina Jordan announced on her Facebook page that she had resigned from council prior to Thursday’s meeting. The city’s attorney said they would look into replacing her at the council’s next meeting, to take place the first Thursday of April, April 6.

“I no longer have faith and trust in either the current Council or senior City leadership,” Jordan wrote. “I refuse to be associated with the tone and environment being perpetuated at City Hall.”

Jordan was the only City Council member in November to vote against Jones to become city manager.

Bettina Jordan's online statement announcing her resignation March 16 from Hutto City Council.

Bettina Jordan’s online statement announcing her resignation March 16 from Hutto City Council. (via Joe Warner/Community Impact)

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