Update (11:30 a.m. Aug. 9)
In documents filed Monday, Alex Fairly’s legal team is requesting an emergency teleconference hearing, along with a request for costs, surrounding the scheduling of the depositions with the city of Amarillo officials in relation to the ongoing Civic Center litigation in Potter County.
According to the documents, Fairly’s team claims the city’s legal team never attempted to discuss the timing or locations of the depositions prior to quashing the depositions. This comes after an email, a copy of which is included in the documents, where a representative of the city’s legal team seems to confirm three dates for depositions of city employees.
“Given the City of Amarillo’s failure to confer with counsel on this matter if there were simply particular scheduling issues, Mr. Fairly should be awarded costs on this matter in the amount of $1,200.00,” the documents read. “This includes the paralegal costs to generate the ten (10) deposition notices, drafting this motion and attending the teleconference hearing. Mr. Fairly will also shoulder the burden of re-drafting and e-filing those same notices.”
In a response to this motion, the city’s legal team said that the city of Amarillo has been working in “good faith” to schedule the depositions. They claim during a meeting between the two parties, they agreed to three dates to host depositions, including Aug. 17 as well as Aug. 22-23. The city’s team also claims that Fairly’s legal team “acknowledged that the topics previously requested for a City representative’s deposition were too broad and agreed to revise them.”
The city’s legal team said in the documents they have been working with the City Attorney to determine when the witnesses can be available. However, they said that Fairly’s team “served ten deposition notices for specific dates and times,” without checking with the city’s team first.
The city’s legal team said they believe this matter can be worked out among the parties and requested that Fairly’s team’s motion be denied.
“There is ample time for the parties to work together to schedule the depositions at times that work for all involved,” the documents read. “Court intervention is not warranted, and there certainly is no emergency.”
AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — As the legal proceedings continue in Potter County surrounding the city of Amarillo’s funding mechanism to pay for improvements and renovations to the Amarillo Civic Center Complex, the city is requesting that portions of the litigation that they believe “can be decided now as a matter of law,” be decided sooner rather than later, ahead of the October trial date.
How did we get here?
The lawsuit process began in late May, after Amarillo Businessman Alex Fairly challenged the legality of the city of Amarillo’s City Council’s vote to use $260,525,000 in anticipation notes to fund the Civic Center project through a lawsuit in Potter County. The city of Amarillo then subsequently filed its own lawsuit, asking a judge to validate the use of the notes.
Since then, the two legal teams have gone back and forth throughout documents, presenting various arguments over the matter. After an in-person hearing in late July, Judge William Sowder ruled that Fairly would not be required to pay a bond, a motion the city requested because of their belief that Fairly’s lawsuit is causing the delay for the overall project. Fairly’s legal team argued that they were not the ones that caused the delay, stressing that the Texas Attorney General had not yet approved the $260,525,000 in anticipation notes to fund the project.
City of Amarillo’s motion for Partial Summary Judgment
According to court documents filed earlier this month, the city of Amarillo’s legal team is requesting Sowder to rule on certain issues they believe that can be decided as a matter of law. Throughout the documents, the team listed out the following allegations raised by Fairly’s legal team that they believe can be solved by the judge through various portions of the Texas Government Code and other official documents:
- Texas Open Meetings Act – Notice Requirement;
- Imposition of Ad Valorem Tax;
- Use of Proceeds (whether or not the proceeds from the notes will be used to fund a “public work;”
- Public Hearing;
- Decision in Single Meeting;
- Election Requirement;
- Character of Obligation (whether the tax notes qualify as debt).
The city’s legal team said that the one potential exception to this is Fairly’s allegation of the Amarillo City Council circumventing the Texas Open Meetings Act’s open meetings requirements by “deliberating as a quorum outside of the May 24, 2022, open meeting.”
“The City was opposed to delaying the trial of this matter for the reasons previously expressed and argued,” the documents said. “The City should not now also be deprived of its right to have the Court consider its motion for partial summary judgment… the City respectfully requests leave to move for partial summary judgment.”
According to the documents, the city’s legal team suggested a deadline of Wednesday for Sowder to move for summary judgment, a deadline of Aug. 17 for responses and a hearing on, or before, Aug. 24.
Fairly’s response to the city’s motion for partial summary judgment
In a response to the city’s motion, Fairly’s legal team stressed the fact that the city “seeks to pursue leave to file a partial summary judgment motion prior to depositions or any significant discovery being conducted.”
According to previous reports, Sowder expanded the discovery process for the case, requiring the city to provide various documents, including ordinance 7985, in all drafts and forms, including as presented or proposed prior to the May 24 Regular Meeting and as written afterward, the agendas, minutes, memos and public notices for all Amarillo City Council meetings during which the City Council discussed, voted upon, considered or imposed the taxes pledged to the payment of the anticipation notes at issue in the lawsuits as well as all correspondence, including emails and texts, attaching and/or discussing drafts of Ordinance 7985.
Fairly’s legal team claims that the documents listed in this expanded discovery process have not been produced to them, as of when this response was filed on Aug. 3.
Through this expanded discovery order, Sowder also said depositions would be allowed in the case. According to court documents filed on Aug. 3, Fairly’s legal team filed numerous notices of intention to take the “oral and videotaped depositions” of various individuals associated with the ongoing litigation. These individuals include:
- Cole Stanley, Amarillo City Council member;
- Stephanie Coggins, Amarillo’s City Secretary;
- Freda Powell, Amarillo City Council member;
- Ginger Nelson; Amarillo Mayor;
- Eddy Sauer; Amarillo City Council member;
- Howard Smith, Amarillo City Council Member;
- Jared Miller, Amarillo City Manager;
- Laura Storrs, Amarillo Assistant City Manager;
- Jason Herrick, member of the city’s Civic Center community group and president of Amarillo Matters.
An additional notice was filed on Aug. 3 to take the “oral and videotaped deposition of (the) City of Amarillo.” However, it is not clear through court documents who Fairly’s legal team wishes to speak with in this specific deposition.
In a response to the depositions being filed, the city of Amarillo’s legal team filed an additional motion to “quash (the) depositions.” Through the documents, filed Monday, the city’s team claimed that while there were conversations surrounding setting aside dates for depositions, there was not specific conversation on the specific dates, what times worked for the people being deposed as well as the location for the depositions.
In its response, the city also said the depositions are not necessary because “they seek information and perhaps witnesses that exceed the scope of Chapter 1205 and the Court’s order concerning discovery in this case.”
In Fairly’s legal team’s response to the city of Amarillo’s motion to file partial summary judgment, the team stressed their belief that partial summary judgment proceedings “would be neither proper nor efficient in this case in light of the Court’s prior rulings on the trial setting and discovery.”
The response also stresses Fairly’s team’s belief that all the allegations surrounding the Texas Open Meetings act should be tried together. The team claims that the city’s argument that some, but all, of the allegations raised regarding the Texas Open Meetings Act are “appropriate for summary judgment,” is not valid.
“The City clearly fails to grasp that the (Texas Open Meetings Act) violations are all interrelated and must be litigated and tried together,” the documents read. “The City’s attempt to parse these issues for their own ultimate benefit must fail. The people of Amarillo have a right to know whether their City Council was honest with them and each other about the anticipation notes at issue in this lawsuit. And Fairly is entitled to conduct discovery on those issues.”
According to previous reports by MyHIghPlains.com, the bench trial for this lawsuit is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 4 in Potter County District Court.