AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — During Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Amarillo City Council, the members of the council were expected to speak on the Amarillo Civic Center Lawsuit in Potter County during the meeting’s executive session.
According to the meeting’s agenda, found on the city’s website, the first item in the executive session for Tuesday’s meeting was listed as:
“Section 551.071 – Consult with Attorney about pending or contemplated litigation or settlement of same or on a matter in which the attorney’s duty to the governmental body under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct conflicts with this chapter: i. In re City of Amarillo, Cause #110998-D-CV”
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, Amarillo Businessman Alex Fairly filed a lawsuit against the city of Amarillo in June 2022 after the previous city council approved the issuance of $260 million in anticipation notes to fund the expansion and renovation of the Amarillo Civic Center Complex. The council voted 4-1 to approve the use of anticipation notes for the project in May 2022, with then-Place One Councilmember Cole Stanley voting against the measure.
After retired Judge William Sowder ruled in Potter County District Court that the city’s use of the notes was invalid and unlawful, both the city and Fairly filed respective appeals to the judgment in the Texas Seventh District Court of Appeals. On June 26, the legal teams involved in the case are expected to appear in person for the oral arguments portion of the appeal.
Stanley, who is now Amarillo’s mayor, has been an outspoken opponent of the Amarillo Civic Center expansion project and the lawsuit. According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, Stanley supported the community’s referendum petition that aimed at overturning the Civic Center funding-related ordinance signed by more than 12,500 people back in August.
That petition was eventually not authorized for submission by the city of Amarillo, stating that it did not include “several elements in order to be certified and forwarded to City Council for consideration,” including a valid “affidavit of circulator,” something which officials stressed at the time is mandatory under Article II, Section 23 of the Amarillo City Charter.
“This petition meets all requirements by law. It appears the city is choosing to disenfranchise over 12,000 citizens of Amarillo,” Stanley said at the time. “I am disappointed that the council is refusing to listen to the citizens of Amarillo and yet again silence the voice of the voter.”
Stanley previously told MyHighPlains.com that he does not believe that the Civic Center is an urgent need, stressing the importance of the Amarillo City Council listening to the citizens after a Civic Center-related bond proposal was struck down in 2020.
“If they give us a budget of $250 million to go build something new, then we can do a great job with that. If they don’t, and they say, ‘Work within what you have in funding and taxes,’ then we still have opportunities to do updates and take care of an asset and that building doesn’t necessarily fall into the liability category,” Stanley said. “It can stay in the asset category if we will just do our job on a year-to-year basis.”
Don Tipps, an Amarillo business owner who is now the Place Two Councilmember on the Amarillo City Council, also previously spoke out about the Amarillo City Council moving forward with the project. Tipps spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting where the council voted on the notes, stating at the time:
“Because the will the people, or the voters, has already been made known on the issue, advancing this project will be in direct opposition to exactly the citizens who have put y’all in office. If you choose to move forward, it seems the only way I know to stop that on this side is through litigation.”
Tipps also testified during the Civic Center trial in Potter County in October 2022, expressing his intention at that time that he would run for a place on the Amarillo Cty Council. Tipps stressed at that time that he thought the city would abide by the November 2020 bond election vote, striking down the Civic Center-related bond and was shocked that they voted on a Civic Center-related measure during that May 2022 meeting.
MyHighPlains.com reached out to the city of Amarillo regarding this item on the executive session agenda. In response to the request for comment, officials said:
“By the very nature of executive sessions, the discussions therein are private as outlined in the Open Meetings Act to protect the interests of the city and its citizens.”