Ahead of the May election, Odessa residents had the opportunity to learn more about their local candidates at a forum hosted by Ector County Republican Party on Tuesday.

Forum participants included candidates running for trustee positions on Odessa College and Medical Center Hospital boards.

Incumbent Odessa College Trustee Tommy Clark (Place 9) sat alongside challengers Robert Brescia and Lacy Harris, who each discussed their passion to serve the institution while noting their respective experiences and credentials for the position.

Medical Center Hospital (MCH) Board Trustee Mary Thompson, who has served for nearly 30 years since the creation of the district, also participated with challenger Wallace Dunn.

MCH has been plagued in recent years with controversy and outcry from citizens, most recently over the hospital’s lack of transparency.

When questioned about the board’s decision to withhold meeting agenda packets from the public and press, Thompson claimed that no other hospital board in the state released their packets prior to the public meetings. This claim was debunked by another hospital board member, Bryn Dodd, who says there are numerous hospitals that release the agendas and are required by the Open Meetings Act to do so.

Thompson then turned the subject into a political attack, alleging the only transparency shortcoming was her opponent’s failure to disclose an arrest record arising from an incident in 2004.

Dunn countered the attack, saying he was never convicted of anything and that the attack was uncalled for. He continued by saying he was disgusted with the constant controversies relating to the hospital, and that transparency is one of his main campaign issues.

Texas Scorecard asked the hospital board candidates their positions on the statewide property tax reform currently being taken up in the Texas Legislature, which has been opposed by local government lobbying associations and many local elected officials.

Thompson avoided answering the question directly but said the hospital needs sales and property taxes. Dunn responded that Texas has one of the highest property tax rates in the nation, and something must be done.

He also noted that on the heels of the Odessa City Council’s passage of an anti-taxpayer resolution, which angered residents and drew criticism from Gov. Greg Abbott, the hospital board still moved forward on passing the same kind of anti-taxpayer resolution. The resolution was tabled by a last-minute request from CEO Rick Napper.

Early voting for the May 4 election begins April 22.

Matt Stringer

Matthew Stringer is from Odessa, TX and serves as a West Texas Correspondent for Texas Scorecard.