Update: Tuesday, 7:21 p.m.
In an interview given to MyHighPlains.com after the discussion of Item 5B during Tuesday’s Amarillo City Council meeting, Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson said the item stemmed from citizens who had brought concerns to her about the amount of money being contributed to political campaigns.
Nelson said it was brought to her that Amarillo Place One City Councilmember, and Mayoral candidate, Cole Stanley had received a $40,000 donation from Amarillo Businessman Alex Fairly. This comes as Stanley made a statement at a campaign event stating that the lawsuit, currently on appeal, would be dropped and the city of Amarillo would pay $426,000 in Fairly’s attorneys’ fees if he was elected as Mayor.
Part of being a member of the Amarillo City Council, Nelson said, is for individuals to be held to a standard where concerns from citizens need to be answered. Nelson said that Tuesday’s meeting, while a challenging environment, was needed. She believes it was important for getting the information out and let citizens come to their own conclusions about it, having as much information as they can when they go vote.
“I think that citizens are entitled to know that information. And, you know, having a discussion about it, I don’t think it’s something that we should be afraid to do,” Nelson said. “…There were a lot of citizens in the room today that didn’t share that concern. But it doesn’t mean that there aren’t citizens in our city who are concerned about the amount of money being contributed by one political donor and the fact that donor is tied to a lawsuit against the city that is ongoing and, should a new council decide to dismiss that lawsuit, it would result in a $426,000 payment to that contributor.”
In regards to the claims that the agenda item was not properly brought forward, Nelson said that the item was drafted Friday, after visiting with the city attorney about the appropriate language. Nelson said that the Texas Open Meetings Act prevented her from visiting with more than one council member about the item, and stressed that she had already talked with Place Three Councilmember Eddy Sauer about it because he had gotten questions about the statement as well.
“I really don’t have any doubts that we properly noticed it,” Nelson said. “Proof that we properly noticed it was that we had a room full of people today, and that’s great. That’s part of the process. I think it’s great that they had concerns and questions enough that they set aside what they had planned to do today and they came to that meeting. That’s what our system is all about.”
Ultimately, the discussion item was in response to citizens raising concerns about contributions in relation to Stanley’s statement, Nelson said.
“The city council has a responsibility to ensure that our actions as a body are within the policies that we’ve agreed to,” Nelson said. “We have a responsibility to protect the trust that citizens have with us. The volume of dollars being contributed into these political races raises a legitimate concern and I think people are entitled to get more information about that situation.”
Stanley said that had no background as to what the discussion item during Tuesday’s meeting was about until the meeting itself.
“I knew that there was potential that I’d be the target of what definitely felt like, you know, just a political, politically-driven agenda item,” Stanley said. “And so, on the face of it, I disagree.”
Stanley did confirm that he received $40,000 from Fairly in a campaign donation, which is expected to show up on his campaign’s next campaign finance report.
While Stanley said that he was not a part of the Civic Center lawsuit, he stressed that legal fees were awarded to Fairly by Judge Sowder in the court case, which had nothing to do with him.
Stanley did reiterate his statement that he gave at the candidate forum, however, stating it would be the right thing to do for the city of Amarillo to drop the appeal.
“It’s the right thing to drop the appeal because if we continue on with that, we’re continuing to costs our taxpayers more and more money,” Stanley said. “So, we’re still spending money on that lawsuit when the judge has already ruled. We already know the outcome and the legal fees have already been awarded. So, delaying those just continues to cost you and (me) more taxpayer dollars.”
But this hypothetical approach to the appeal, paired with his donation from Fairly, does not constitute a quid pro quo, Stanley said.
“Campaign contributions, I know, in large amounts bring everybody’s attention to that,” he said. “But as a businessman in Amarillo, I have customers that pay me millions of dollars and so, I’m already being held to the highest account of not doing anyone any favors. I can only do for that person what I can make sure I can do for everyone else in the community.
A decision to drop the lawsuit would have to come from the Amarillo City Council as a whole, Stanley said, based on legal advice the group received. Because he is not involved in the appeal, Stanley said he does not know its status.
“I don’t know the outcome that could be,” he said. “Now, I have a feeling that Judge Sowder already responded and that this appeal is going nowhere other than a delay.”
Ultimately, Stanley said that what happened during Tuesday’s meeting was inappropriate and “a sad day for Amarillo.”
“Honestly, I was very disappointed and for the entire council in there. It looks bad on all of us and it’s 100% politics at its worst. It put Freda in the crosshairs and they put me up there and that’s unfair to both of us. It actually is unfair to the other four candidates that are running as well. So, I totally disagree with the method that was used today.”
In a statement about Tuesday’s meeting from Fairly to MyHighPlains.com, he said:
“Today was a sad day in Amarillo’s political history. Mayor Nelson’s goal was to embarrass me, and instead, she ensured Cole will be our next a Mayor.The reality is, a long-imbalanced playing field is being brought into balance. Ginger and others were the benefactors of Amarillo money – it gave them an unfair advantage. As I level the field by supporting people who never had a chance in the past, it’s a very uncomfortable reality for those folks. That’s what you saw playing out today.”Amarillo Businessman Alex Fairly
Update: Tuesday, 4:54 p.m.
After a 30-minute recess, Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson reconvened the meeting and began to present item 5B of the discussion portion of Tuesday’s meeting.
Prior to presenting this information, Place One Councilmember, and Mayoral candidate, Cole Stanley spoke to the crowd, calling for civility and asking for them to not interrupt the meeting by yelling remarks and their opinions. This comes after Nelson took a recess earlier in the meeting after the crowd’s rowdiness prevented the meeting from continuing at that time.
“I really need, and I ask for you guys to just honor this dais, to honor the chair of Mayor,” Stanley said to the crowd in the City Council chamber. “Let’s let her speak. Let’s let me speak. Let’s get through this with some civility. And let’s do this the right way. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and we want to hear them. But maybe not from out there.”
Nelson, praising Stanley’s leadership at that moment, then brought forward the reasoning why 5B was put on the agenda. Nelson said that last week, she became aware of a statement Stanley had made during a candidate forum surrounding the Amarillo Civic Center lawsuit in Potter County.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, retired Judge William Sowder ruled against the city in a Potter County lawsuit surrounding the use of anticipation notes to fund improvements and the expansion of the Amarillo Civic Center Complex. The case, which was brought forward by Amarillo Businessman Alex Fairly, is currently in the appeals process in the Texas Seventh Court of Appeals.
Nelson said the statement brought to her attention was that Stanley said he would drop the lawsuit on appeal and would pay Fairly’s fees if he was elected as Mayor. Nelson said that that decision would result in the city paying $426,000 as a result of that.
“The concern that we’ve heard from citizens is that if Mr. Fairly is making large contributions to campaigns for city council candidates, does he expect to receive something in return?” Nelson asked during the meeting. “And, is he doing so expecting to recover his legal fees?”
Nelson also asked if Stanley had taken campaign contributions from Fairly, and if votes “are being purchased” on the city council. Nelson also brought up campaign contributions from Fairly to Place Three candidate Tom Scherlen as well as contributions to the Amarillo Professional Firefighters Association Local 542.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the Amarillo Professional Fire Fighters Association previously reported giving $8,239.15 in support of Stanley, Place Two candidate Don Tipps, Place One candidate Josh Craft, and Scherlen. According to Tipps, $1,750 was given to his campaign through in-kind donations. The organization received its largest contribution of $25,000 from Dealon LLC., which is owned by Fairly.
“Dealon LLC” also gave an additional $25,000 to Scherlen, according to previous reports. Fairly and his wife have also individually given $2,500 to Place Four candidate Les Simpson.
Nelson said that the agenda item as a whole would be for the council to discuss its policy that “clearly states a (city councilmember’s) responsibility is to demonstrate honesty and integrity with every action in statements and inspire public confidence” in city government.
Some of the questions Nelson brought forward included:
- Has Fairly, or Dealon LLC, made contributions to Stanley’s campaign?
- How much was the contribution or the pledge?
- In return for the contributions, will Stanley, through the city of Amarillo, pay attorney’s fees for Fairly in the Civic Center lawsuit?
“The concern is if you’re receiving a large donation from Mr. Fairly, as others in this race have,” Nelson asked Stanley during the meeting, “is there an expectation that the attorneys’ fees will be paid by dismissing the lawsuit?”
In response to Nelson’s public line of questioning, Stanley said that he would respond to the questions, but not engage in a discussion in any “type of a Kangaroo Court.”
To start, Stanley mirrored Michael Ford’s public comments stating that the agenda item was not posted correctly and he was blindsided about this agenda item. Ford, according to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, is listed on Stanley’s campaign website as his treasurer and is an Amarillo resident.
Stanley stressed that he cannot affect Fairly’s attorneys’ fees being paid for because Sowder’s ruling required the city to pay for those fees. Stanley also said he stood by the comments made during the forum, something he said that he spoke in the context of being a Mayoral candidate and not a current city council member.
“It’s right for us to drop the lawsuit that this Council put us in that went directly against the vote of our citizens,” Stanley said. “…There’s no expectation for Mr. Fairly on me. There’s nothing incumbent on the money that he’s contributed.”
Stanley said that Fairly gave him a $40,000 contribution in April, which will be reported in future campaign finance filings. Stanley stressed that Fairly’s donation is just like the donations given to Stanley from other citizens.
“Everything that comes from somebody comes with the same exact answer,” Stanley said. “I will do everything for you that I will do for any other citizen. I will fulfill that request because I’m your civil servant. You’re my boss. I work for you and so whether you voted for me, or you voted against me, it doesn’t matter.”
After speaking on the initial questions, Stanley said he would not participate in any further discussion, ultimately walking out of the meeting.
While there were no action items on Tuesday’s agenda regarding this matter, Nelson did say after Stanley had left the room the council could put an action item on the agenda regarding Stanley. Those potential action items included:
- No action item needed;
- A resolution that would censure or call out any of Stanley’s conduct that was violating Amarillo City Council policy;
- Open an investigation under Article V, Section Nine of the Amarillo City Charter.
The other members of the Amarillo City Council, including Place Two Councilmember and Mayoral candidate Freda Powell, Place Three Councilmember Eddy Sauer and Place Four Councilmember Howard Smith, chose not to take any further action items in regards to this discussion. Sauer and Smith are not running for reelection in May.
As a candidate, Powell did not have any comments on this particular discussion item. Smith also did not have any comments on the matter.
Both Sauer and Nelson ultimately said that they do not believe that the council has time, with the election coming up on May 6, to properly handle the situation.
Update: Tuesday, 1:45 p.m.
AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – During Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Amarillo City Council, council members proceeded in announcing proclamations concerning “Billy Glen Parkey Day,” “Alcohol Awareness Month,” “Child Abuse Awareness Month,” and “Municipal Clerks Week” as well as began to work through the other agenda items. However, the meeting was paused by an impromptu 30-minute recess.
Public address, which began around 20 minutes into the meeting, was held amid a thoroughly crowded and boisterous meeting chamber. Seven speakers, including some candidates in the upcoming municipal elections, stood to speak in support of Place One Councilmember, and current Mayoral candidate, Cole Stanley.
These speeches of support appeared to be made with an understanding that he would be the official singled out in the discussion of agenda item “5.B.”, which was phrased in the agenda as a “discussion of conduct by a City Councilmember as a potential violation of City of Amarillo Governance and Ends Policies, including City Council Member Responsibilities and City Council Member Code of Conduct.”
During the public comment portion, Blair Schaffer, representing the Amarillo Professional Firefighters Association Local 542, said that if the 5B portion of the meeting was about Stanley, he wanted to emphasize that Stanley was a man of character.
“I worked with him on many different occasions and had absolutely zero complaints,” he said. “He’s always been professional. He’s always been a man of his word.”
Michael Ford, an Amarillo resident and a person listed on Stanley’s campaign website as his treasurer, also spoke during the public comment portion, claiming that the city’s notice of the item on the agenda was “illegal” and did not provide sufficient notice.
Ford said that if the 5B item named the specific councilmember as Stanley, Amarillo residents would have filled up the Amarillo Civic Center Complex auditorium with supporters.
“I know this is, on its face, illegal,” he told the council. “Proceed as you may, but if you want to talk about ethics, let’s talk about ethics.”
After the public address portion of the meeting, Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson confirmed that the agenda item would be a discussion concerning Stanley.
About 40 minutes into the meeting, Nelson introduced the agenda item, which was objected to by Stanley. Stanley made a motion to table the item for an upcoming meeting, arguing that public notice for the agenda item had not been sufficient. Place Four Councilmember Howard Smith seconded the motion and joined Stanley in asking for the item to be tabled, but they were outvoted by other council members who supported moving forward with the discussion.
Shortly after the vote, Nelson called for a 30-minute recess to the meeting, her reasoning being that the crowd’s rowdiness was too disruptive to continue at that moment.
Watch the first part of the meeting below:
Watch the second part of the meeting below:
Watch the third part of the meeting below:
AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — During Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Amarillo City Council, the council is expected to discuss a measure surrounding a potential violation of the city of Amarillo’s Governance and End Policies by a member of the Amarillo City Council.
According to the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, an item scheduled for Tuesday’s Amarillo City Council meeting states that there is expected to be a “discussion of conduct by a City Councilmember as a potential violation of city of Amarillo Governance and Ends Policies, including City Council Member Responsibilities and City Council Member Code of Conduct.”
The meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Amarillo City Council chamber at Amarillo City Hall, located at 601 S. Buchanan. The meeting will be streamed on MyHighPlains.com Tuesday afternoon.
In the city of Amarillo’s Governance and Ends Policies, the city lists the City Council’s responsibilities as:
- Cast vision for the City
- Set policy for the City
- Allocate the resources of the City
- Evaluate the performance of the City
- Hire, terminate and supervise the City Manager and the Municipal Court Judge
- Operate as a team of governing officials
- Create partnerships with all local government units in the City
- Listen to the community about City affairs
- Inform the community of City affairs
- Establish an atmosphere conducive to a transparent and fair exchange of ideas, needs and policies
- Serve as a model of leadership and civility in our City.
- Always demonstrate respect, kindness, consideration and courtesy to others.
- Demonstrate prudent and ethical behavior in every action and statement.
- Inspire public confidence in our City government.
- Regularly attend City Council meetings.
- Prepare in advance of City Council meetings and be familiar with agenda items and public issues.
- Fully engage in listening and discussion at City Council meetings.
- Represent the City at ceremonial functions at the request of the Mayor.
- Participate in scheduled City Council or City activities to increase team effectiveness.
- Serve on subcommittees, boards and commissions as a liaison and keep the City Council informed of such subcommittee, board or commission activities.
- Provide information to the City Secretary as needed.
- Keep current contact information that will be used in case an emergency situation rises.
- Furnish financial and any other information that may be required on occasion by local and/or state law.
Later in the document, city officials also outline the code of conduct Amarillo City Council members are required to follow, specifying that “members shall refrain from efforts that may lead to situations in which a Councilmember might have occasion to overstep their bounds.” The document also lists a specific code of conduct and code of ethics members of the Amarillo City Council are required to adhere to, including:
Code of Conduct
- Be respectful, kind, considerate and courteous to all people at all times.
- Conduct an independent and impartial review of all matters addressed by City Council.
- In the need of an investigation under Article V Section 19 of the City Charter, a member shall first contact the Mayor to present valid information on the need for an investigation and request the item be placed on the City Council agenda for discussion and vote before proceeding with an investigation.
- Support all decisions of the City Council although an individual member may be on the minority side of the outcome.
- Work toward consensus on every issue.
- Support and accurately represent the policies of the City when acting in their official capacity.
- Present their individual opinion on an issue outside of City meetings if they explicitly state they do not represent the City Council or the City.
- Adhere to the council-manager structure of government set out in the City Charter.
- a. Not interfere with the administrative functions of the City or the City staff.
- Not make requests of the City Manager or City staff that will require a major change in City policy, a substantial investment of time or City resources, or special handling of matter which might result in special favors or the appearance of partiality.
- Not contact or visit City staff or departments without the advance knowledge of the City Manager or the appropriate Deputy or Assistant City Manager.
- Not impair the ability of City staff to implement City Council policy decisions.
- Refrain from using their position to influence the outcomes or deliberations of board and commission proceedings.
- Direct information requests through the City Manager or the appropriate Deputy or Assistant City Manager and make such requests during normal business hours.
- a. Not interfere with the administrative functions of the City or the City staff.
- Refrain from making public comments, suggestions or demands concerning any City staff, operations or policy without first discussing the matter with the City Manager.
- Check with City staff before sending correspondence to see if an official City response is in progress.
- Never promise action or a result by the City Council or City staff on a specific issue.
- Consult with the Office of Public Communications and Community Engagement before communicating with the media about any City issue or policy.
- Improve his or her governance ability by attending training annually.
Code of Ethics
- Demonstrate honesty and integrity in every action and statement.
- Work for the common good of the City and not for any private, personal or political
- Comply with the letter and spirit of the laws of the nation, the State of Texas and the City including all City policies.
- Assure fair and equal treatment of all persons and transactions coming in contact with the City.
- Members will not appear on behalf of others before the City Council or any board, commission or proceeding of the City or voluntarily participate on behalf of others in any litigation in which the City is or might be an adverse party.
- Be independent, impartial and fair in their judgment and actions.
- Have no conflicts of interest. No member or a relative of a member will:
- Have any financial interest in any transaction with the City.
- Participate in a vote on any matter in which they have a substantial interest.
- Accept any gift that would reasonably influence the member in their official duties. The prohibition of gifts shall not apply to:
- A lawful campaign contribution;
- An honorarium in consideration for services unless the member or relative would not have been asked to provide the services but for the member’s position;
- Meals, lodging, transportation in connection with services rendered by the
- member or relative at a conference, seminar or similar event (if services are more than merely perfunctory);
- Complimentary copies of trade publications and other related materials;
- Attendance at hospitality functions at local, regional, state or national association meetings and/or conferences;
- An occasional item with a value less than fifty dollars ($50.00);
- Tee shirts, caps and other similar promotional material;
- Gifts that would have been made independent of the member’s status such as on account of kinship, personal, professional or business relationship;
- Complimentary attendance at political or charitable fund raising events.
- Respect the confidential information of the City. They will not disclose information without authorization nor use information to advance their private, personal or political interests. They will maintain information discussed in executive session confidential.
- Not use public resources (City staff, equipment, supplies or facilities) not available to the public in general for private, personal or political purposes.
In response to an inquiry about this agenda item, officials with the city of Amarillo also referred MyHighPlains.com to Article V, Section 19 of the Amarillo City Charter, which reads:
SECTION 19. – INVESTIGATION BY COUNCIL
“The Council may investigate the financial transaction of any office or department of the City government, and the acts and conduct of any officer or employee. In conducting such investigation, the Council may compel the attendance or witnesses, the production of books and papers, and other evidence, and for that purpose may issue subpoenas or attachments which shall be signed by the Mayor; which may be served and executed by any officer authorized by law to serve subpoenas or other process, or any peace officer of the City.
If any witness shall refuse to appear or to testify to any facts within his knowledge, or to produce any papers or books in his or her possession or control, relating to the matter under investigation before the Council, the Council shall have the power to cause that witness to be punished as for contempt, not exceeding a fine of one hundred dollars ($100.00) and three days in the City’s jail. No witness shall be excused from testifying, touching his knowledge of the matter under investigation in any such inquiry, but testimony shall not be used against him or her in any criminal prosecution except for perjury committed upon such inquiry.”
The city of Amarillo provided no other details surrounding what this agenda item would be about, or which Amarillo City Councilmember this discussion item is centering around.
This is a developing story. MyHighPlains.com will update this article as new information becomes available.
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