AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Amarillo businessman Alex Fairly has responded to the city of Amarillo’s request to combine the two Civic Center funding-related lawsuits, saying that he supports the motion to bring them together.
However, court documents released in late June showed that Fairly’s team wants the trial moved to 2023 if the lawsuits are combined, to give more time for discovery.
This comes after both Fairly, the president of the Fairly Group, and the city of Amarillo brought forward lawsuits in Potter County centered around the funding plan for improvements to the Amarillo Civic Center Complex. According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, Fairly’s lawsuit in the 108th Judicial District Court claims that the city’s use of anticipation notes to fund the project was illegal. Meanwhile, the city’s lawsuit aims for a Potter County judge to rule that the use of those notes was indeed legal.
How did we get here?
During its regular meeting on May 24, the Amarillo City Council voted 4-1 to approve an ordinance that would give officials the ability to issue an amount not to exceed $260,525,000 in anticipation notes to help fund the project at the Amarillo Civic Center Complex. This funding decision from the city comes after a bond proposal surrounding the project was voted down by Amarillo residents in 2020, with officials taking the time since then to consider other ways to fund the expansion and renovation project.
After the May 24 vote, Fairly filed his lawsuit in Potter County, claiming that the city’s use of the anticipation notes was illegal under Texas Government Code 1431. According to previous reports, that portion of the Texas Government Code outlines what cities, as well as other entities, can and cannot use those kinds of notes for. In the lawsuit, Fairly claims that the city is going against the will of the voters’ wishes by approving the ordinance. In response to Fairly’s lawsuit, city of Amarillo officials denied Fairly’s claims of wrongdoing, stating that he lacks standing in those claims.
According to court documents, Fairly’s team claims that the ordinance the city approved during the March 24 meeting consists of the largest issuance of anticipation notes in the state’s history, coming after the city of San Antonio issued $60 million in notes in 2007 to construct new fire stations, drainage facilities, flood controls, dams as well as other projects.
Officials with the city of Amarillo filed their own suit related to the ordinance on June 8. The goal of this suit is for a Potter County Court judge to validate that the city can use anticipation notes to fund the Civic Center project. According to previous reports, city officials challenged Fairly’s claim, stating that the notes can be used for this project under Texas Government Code Chapter 1431.
Because both suits cover whether or not the use of anticipation notes for the Civic Center renovation project is legal, officials from the city of Amarillo issued a motion in late June requesting that both their own lawsuit, along with Fairly’s lawsuit, be combined into one.
If the judge decides not to combine the two suits, the city requested that Fairly’s lawsuit be enjoined, or stopped, until the final judgment of their own lawsuit is entered.
What do the new documents say?
In a response from Fairly’s legal team, filed in the 320th District Court of Potter County on June 29, Fairly claimed that the city’s bench trial, scheduled for Tuesday, is not a “trial in the generally understood legal vernacular.”
This bench trial was initially called under Texas Government Code 1205, to give the chance for a Potter County Judge to decide whether or not the city can move forward with the project using the anticipation notes. As of Friday morning, this bench trial only covers the city’s own lawsuit and not Fairly’s lawsuit.
“Any assertion by the City otherwise is erroneous and without legal basis,” Fairly’s team argued, “Rather, the July 5 hearing only requires that Fairly (or any other interested party) ‘appear for trial at 10 a.m. on the first Monday after the 20th day after the date of the order; and show cause why the petition should not be granted and the public securities authorization validated and confirmed.'”
While both lawsuits cover the same subject matter, Fairly’s team said that the issues Fairly’s lawsuit raises cannot be “fairly and justly resolved” on the city of Amarillo’s lawsuit schedule. Ultimately, Fairly is seeking that a trial be hosted on the joint matter on or after March 28, 2023, so his team can conduct its discovery process.
In the documents, Fairly’s team stresses that Fairly does not oppose consolidating the two cases. However, he also says the discovery process will take time surrounding the alleged violations of numerous statutes, which the team lists out in the documents. This includes alleged violations of the Texas Government Code, the Tax Code, the city of Amarillo’s Charter as well as the Open Meetings Act.
As well as requesting the trial be moved to March 2023, Fairly’s team is also asking officials with the Potter County Court to deny the city of Amarillo’s request to stop Fairly’s lawsuit, and instead combine the two lawsuits and permit “a reasonable schedule for appropriate discovery,” the documents read.
In additional documents filed Thursday, Fairly’s team continued to argue that the trial can be set at a later date, under Texas Government Code Chapter 1205. Fairly’s team claims that a portion of the Texas Government Code does not require that the matter be set for trial on Tuesday, saying that the matter shall be presented in front of the court “with the least possible delay.”
Fairly’s team said a number of factual issues have to be resolved before the team presents its case for their own trial. The documents filed on Thursday claim a number of documents from the city of Amarillo, related to tax calculations surrounding the anticipation notes, have not been provided.
“Fairly and all citizens of Amarillo deserve to be shown how the largest anticipation tax note package in Texas history was proposed by the 16th largest Texas city with no public notice and incomplete and misleading advanced disclosure of the terms of the notes and the taxes that would be necessary to pay for them,” the documents read. “Indeed, those very problems are just some of the reasons these Notes are void. Accordingly, adequate discovery must be permitted to give Amarilloans a fair trial on these issues.”
In a response filed Friday morning, officials with the city of Amarillo said that while it is not opposed to a short continuance for the bench trial date, it “staunchly opposes” the discovery process Fairly’s team seeks, stating that it is “voluminous and unnecessary.”
“The discovery Mr. Fairly insists is necessary to his suit appears to be sought in support of bald allegations made with no factual or legal support,” the documents said. “His allegations that the City has violated the Texas Open Meetings Act, for example, have no basis in reality (nor in Texas Law or the text of that statute), and this Court should not allow Mr. Fairly to delay the issuance of valid anticipation notes for weeks or months while he searches for nonexistent evidence of wrongdoing by the City.”
As of Friday morning, there have been no responses on whether or not the Court will combine the two lawsuits. As of now, the bench trial for the city’s lawsuit continues to be scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday in the 320th Judicial District Court of Potter County.
MyHighPlains.com has reached out to officials with the city of Amarillo regarding the update to these lawsuits. Jordan Schupbach, the director of communications with the city of Amarillo, provided the following statement:
“Out of respect for the established legal process in our country, we intend to let this play out in the courts and not on social media or through media releases and video productions. As such, we have no additional information to provide at this time. We look forward to the resolution of this matter and to the continued progress that Amarillo is making.”Jordan Schupbach, the director of communications with the city of Amarillo
This story is developing. Check with MyHighPlains.com for updates