AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – In front of a packed house Tuesday evening, Alex Fairly, the president of the Fairly Group, spoke publicly for the first time regarding the lawsuit he recently filed against the city of Amarillo.
This speech occurred during Tuesday’s meeting of the High Plains Republican Women, a local political action committee that is “committed to promoting and advancing the Republican Party” in the Texas Panhandle, according to its Facebook page.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, Fairly filed a lawsuit in late May in the 108th District Court in Potter County in response to the Amarillo City Council voting to move forward to issue debt for the expansion and renovation of the Amarillo Civic Center Complex. The council voted 4-1 on May 24 to issue $260 million in tax and revenue notes to fund the project, coming after 61% of Amarillo residents voted against a bond proposal for the project in the November 2020 election.
After that proposition failed, city officials still looked for ways to fund the project, including the council approving a measure in June 2021 for the city to enter into a pre-development services agreement with Garfield Public/Private LLC to explore ways to do that. During that May 24 meeting, city officials were presented with the final report from Garfield and subsequently voted to fund the project with the tax and revenue notes.
Through the lawsuit, Fairly is aiming for a jury to find that what the city of Amarillo did regarding the Civic Center project was illegal. According to previous reports, Fairly also aims to prevent the city from using tax and revenue notes for this project.
What did Fairly say during the meeting?
During Tuesday’s speech, Fairly explained to members of the political action committee, as well as other lawmakers and members of the public in attendance, what the lawsuit consists of, stressing how much he disagrees with what the council did.
During his comments, Fairly cited Texas Government Code Chapter 1431, the portion of the code which lays out the rules for “anticipation notes,” including the tax and revenue notes the city voted to use to fund the Civic Center project.
According to the code, issuance of the notes can be used to pay for the construction of public works, the purchase of materials, supplies, buildings, lands and other items for various needs, operating or current expenses or for a professional service, including those from an engineer, architect, attorney auditor or fiscal agent. According to the code, the notes can be paid from revenue, taxes, a combination of revenue and taxes or bond proceeds.
By using Texas Government Code Chapter 1431 in this manner, Fairly said that he believes that the mayor has lost her “fiscal mind.” He said that the chapter was not intended for projects like the Civic Center expansion and renovation project and stressed that Amarillo residents should not have their property taxes impacted by a project they voted down in the first place.
“The majority of the people in this country get to pick and that’s kind of simple. Essentially, I think people have decided to tax us via a vehicle that I don’t think was intended for things like this,” he said during the meeting. “I feel like I’m being taxed without really getting a fair say and this is how I feel. People came to this country to get away from that.”
Ultimately, Fairly believes that this cause is worth defending to the death for, and the only place he believes that conversation can occur is in a courtroom if the lawsuit sees the light of day.
“I hate filing a lawsuit. The truth is, it’s the only place I can go to… have a discussion, a fair discussion… The district court is the only place I can go to have a conversation,” Fairly said. “Here’s the bottom line – this isn’t right. If they found a legal way to do it, still, I’m going to fight to bring attention to our legislators to say you got to go fill that gap. Cities all over the state will look at this action and this suit and if we lose this suit, they’ll say, ‘we can just go do anything we want with government section 1431.’”
Fairly told MyHighPlains.com after the meeting that while he was encouraged by the turnout and that people would be willing to hear about this lawsuit, he stressed that he was not sure how people could help his cause, since it is a lawsuit in Potter County.
“I don’t know that it’s important for me to raise awareness because it’s not going to be fought over here,” Fairly said. “These folks found out about it and called me and asked me if I would come and talk to them. Minus that invite, I probably would never have thought to do this. So, I love their support and their encouragement, but we don’t need to go politicking and campaigning because this isn’t going to be decided in the public.”
What have city of Amarillo officials previously said about the Civic Center project?
Officials with the city of Amarillo previously told MyHighPlains.com that the city does not comment on pending litigation. However, city of Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson continued to stress the project’s importance during an interview on Friday, saying that the longer the city waits, the more the overall project will cost, given the current situation with interest rates.
“This is the hand that we’ve been dealt. I wish we had more time. We don’t have time,” Nelson said on Friday. “The longer that we wait, knowing that we have to do this project… the more expensive it will be and the more it will cost us in funding because interest rates are going up. Construction costs are going up. Interest rates are going up. The Fed has already signaled in the next 18 months, they are going to go up maybe 11 times. So, this is just the environment that we are in.”
Nelson said that as soon as the project’s funding mechanism was approved at the City Council meeting on May 24, the city “locked in the interest rate” for the project, ultimately saving the city money.
“If we lose even one point of our interest rate, that’s $15 million. The numbers are big,” Nelson said. “Using the tax notes allows us to move more quickly and saves us money in the long run, because we are in this environment where interest rates are fluctuating and changing so quickly.”
Nelson said that using tax and revenue notes for this project is legal, stressing that the council would not consider anything that was illegal.
“There are still opinions on what the right solution is (like) how large should it be? How much should we spend? Where should those funds come from?” Nelson said on Friday. “…What council voted on last week has a lot of the major pieces. I would guess that it’s not the perfect solution either. But it moves the project forward.”
Fairly said he plans to have no other public events about this lawsuit, providing updates to his case on the Inspire Amarillo webpage. As of Tuesday (June 7), there have been no further documents filed into the 108th District Court in Potter County related to this lawsuit.