AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — A little more than a year ago, the Amarillo City Council voted to move forward with the issuance of $260 million in anticipation notes to fund the expansion and renovation of the Amarillo Civic Center Complex.
That decision set off a chain of events within the span of a year, including a Potter County lawsuit, a decision and an appeal that has ultimately impacted the status of that project and could impact the way entities use anticipation notes for projects throughout the state.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, Amarillo Businessman Alex Fairly filed a lawsuit against the city of Amarillo in Potter County aimed at overturning the Civic Center-related vote in May 2022. Ultimately, Fairly’s team was seeking a declaratory judgment, stating that what the Amarillo City Council voted on was illegal and unlawful, as well as a ruling that would prevent the city from using anticipation notes for this project.
In response to Fairly’s lawsuit, the city filed its own lawsuit in Potter County in June 2022, aiming for a Potter County Judge to declare the city’s use of the anticipation notes for the Civic Center Complex project was “legal and valid” under Texas Government Code Chapter 1431. Those two lawsuits, because of their similar subject matter, were eventually combined in Potter County District Court.
Since the two suits were combined in Potter County District Court, the respective legal teams went back and forth via documents, including a request from the city of Amarillo that would require Fairly to pay for the alleged increased cost to the overall Civic Center project because of the delay they say he caused.
“After considering the Motion, responsive pleadings, the evidence properly before the Court and arguments of counsel, if any, the Court is of the opinion that the Motion should be DENIED,” the documents read at the time. Because of this denial, Fairly was not required to post a bond in this lawsuit.
The lawsuits eventually made it to trial in early October 2022, giving the legal teams for the city of Amarillo, Fairly’s legal team as well as a representative from the Texas Attorney General’s Office the chance to present their arguments to retired Judge William Sowder. The trial, which took two days, gave the chance for individuals to hear from Amarillo City Council members, city of Amarillo staff and other expert witnesses surrounding the use of anticipation notes and how it relates to this project in particular.
Around 20 days after the last day of the trial, Sowder ruled in favor of Fairly, ruling that the city’s use of anticipation notes for the Civic Center Complex project was “invalid and void.” In Sowder’s ruling, he said that the Amarillo City Council violated the Texas Open Meetings Act, the Texas Government Code and the Texas Tax Code.
“The City of Amarillo’s request for declarations as to the validity and legality of the public securities identified as City of Amarillo, Texas, Tax Notes, Taxable Series 2022A are hereby denied,” the document said. “The City of Amarillo, Texas, Tax Notes, Taxable Series 2022A are invalid and void.”
In a statement to MyHighPlains.com at the time, Fairly said he was thankful and humbled by the decision, thanking his supporters along the way.
“I’m thankful that a regular, ordinary, everyday guy can still raise his hand and say, ‘I don’t think this is right,’ and get a fair day in court and a voice,” he said at the time. “I think we all have that voice. It’s too expensive, I know that. But I’m so thankful that the system is there and we were able to use it and that it worked.”
After the result, officials with the city of Amarillo said that they “respectfully” disagreed with the judgment and were reviewing the decision with their legal counsel to determine the next steps.
After the judgment, both Fairly and the city of Amarillo ultimately appealed Sowder’s judgment, with the city disagreeing with all of Sowder’s ruling and Fairly’s team believing that Sowder did not go far enough in his ruling. In February, both sides have gone back and forth via documents, presenting their respective arguments to the Seventh Court of Appeals in Amarillo.
Since Feb. 1, seven briefs have been filed in the appeal, with each side presenting their viewpoint and responding to the other side. On June 26, the legal teams involved in the case are expected to appear in person for the oral arguments portion of the appeal.
According to documents filed on May 25, the oral arguments portion will be at 9 a.m. on June 26 in the Seventh District Court of Appeals in the Potter County Courts Building, located at 501 South Fillmore. The arguments will be before Chief Justice Brian Quinn, Justice Judy Parker and Justice Lawrence Doss.
“Argument is limited to 20 minutes for appellant, city of Amarillo, and 20 minutes for appellees, Alex Fairly and Ken Paxton, with a five-minute rebuttal time for appellant city of Amarillo,” the document read. “Each member of the panel will have read the briefs and will be familiar with the facts as you have expressed them and the principles of law upon which you rely.”
This is a developing story. MyHighPlains.com will update this article as new information becomes available.
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