AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The city of Amarillo’s legal team is looking for further clarification from retired Judge William Sowder in relation to the judgment in the Amarillo Civic Center Complex funding-related lawsuit in Potter County.

According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, Sowder ruled that the city of Amarillo could not use $260 million in tax notes to fund the expansion and improvements to the city’s Civic Center Complex.

After Sowder’s judgment, he released his factual findings and conclusions, per the city’s request, and denied motions from both the city of Amarillo and Amarillo Businessman Alex Fairly to “modify, correct or reform” his judgment,” according to previous reports.

Citing the Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 298, the city of Amarillo’s legal team is requesting for Sowder to file “additional findings of fact and conclusions of law” after Sowder filed his initial factual findings and conclusions earlier this month. That portion of the Texas Rule of Civil Procedure gives parties the chance to make an additional filing, requesting specific additional or amended findings or conclusions within 10 days of the original filing.

The city’s legal team is requesting findings of fact in conclusions of law surrounding three specific arguments the city has brought forward multiple times, including:

  • Fairly’s claims that the tax anticipation notes at issue qualify as debt under the Texas Tax Code are not ripe and thus cannot be ruled on;
  • Fairly lacks standing to assert any claims relating to whether the notes qualify as debt under the Texas Tax Code;
  • The court cannot grant a declaratory judgment that the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone No. 1 Board’s actions in connection with the consideration and approval of Item No. 5 on the May 5, 2022 TIRZ No. 1 Board meeting agenda violate or are void under the Texas Open Meetings Act because neither the TIRZ No. 1 Board nor any of its members are a party in the lawsuit.

Argument No. 1: Fairly’s claims that the tax anticipation notes at issue qualify as debt under the Texas Tax Code are not ripe and thus cannot be ruled on;

To back up the first argument, the city’s legal team said that because the notes have not officially been issued, and because the city has not adopted a tax rate that takes into account the debt service on the notes, the city has not classified which part of the tax rate the debt would be associated with: the interest and sinking side or the maintenance and operations side.

Argument No. 2: Fairly lacks standing to assert any claims relating to whether the notes qualify as debt under the Texas Tax Code;

The city’s legal team claims that a taxpayer who asserts a “truth-in-taxation” claim under the Texas Tax Code must “show as a rule that they have suffered a particularized injury distinct from that suffered by the general public in order to have standing to challenge a government action or assert a public right.”

The city claims that Fairly has not shown any “particularized injury distinct from that suffered by the general public.” Even if he did, the city alleges that Fairly’s claims lack standing to invalidate the funding ordinance because it does not address a problem with “the computation, publication or posting requirements” of portions of the Texas Tax Code or prove that it was a failure to follow portions of the code.

“Accordingly,” the documents read, “these are the sole remedies available for taxpayer challenges such as Fairly’s. Fairly lacks standing to invalidate Ordinance No. 7985 on the grounds that it violates Chapter 26 of the Tax Code.”

Argument No. 3: The court cannot grant a declaratory judgment that the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone No. 1 Board’s actions in connection with the consideration and approval of Item No. 5 on the May 5, 2022 TIRZ No. 1 Board meeting agenda violate or are void under the Texas Open Meetings Act because neither the TIRZ No. 1 Board nor any of its members are a party in the lawsuit.

In the final argument, the city’s team claims that because the TIRZ No. 1 board is not a party to the lawsuit, no member of the board was a party to the lawsuit and no member of the TIRZ board was represented at the trial, that the court does not have the ability to rule on the board’s actions.

The legal team stressed that it is the TIRZ No. 1 board’s responsibility, not the city of Amarillo, to give notice of the subject of its meetings. According to the documents, the team stressed that in order to challenge the actions of the board, Fairly should have filed a lawsuit against the TIRZ No. 1 Board.

“A final judgment cannot be entered against a non-party,” the document reads. “…This Court lacks power to render judgment against the TIRZ #1 Board or any of its members.”

Both parties in the lawsuit have filed documents in the Seventh Court of Appeals surrounding this final judgment. According to previous reports, briefs for the appeal are expected to be filed by Feb. 1, 2023.

For more information about the Amarillo Civic Center Complex lawsuit, visit MyHighPlains.com.