AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — As officials with the city of Amarillo are in the midst of verifying the more than 12,500 signatures of a petition surrounding the Civic Center-related ordinance approved by the Amarillo City Council in May, the legal team of Amarillo Businessman Alex Fairly is asking for Judge William Sowder to abate the ongoing Civic Center lawsuit in Potter County.
New documents claim that the result from the petition will cover the same ground Fairly’s lawsuit was covering: hearing from Amarillo citizens regarding their thoughts on the city’s use of tax notes for the project.
Fairly’s team filed a motion to “abate cause no. 110998-D-CV pending resolution of referendum to repeal ordinance 7985” Wednesday morning in Potter County. This comes after two Amarillo citizens officially submitted the petition, aimed at repealing the ordinance, to the city secretary on Monday.
How did we get here?
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the city of Amarillo’s city council adopted ordinance 7985 during the May 24 City Council meeting, an ordinance that approved the use of tax notes for improvements and the expansion of the Amarillo Civic Center Project. This comes after Amarillo citizens voted down Civic Center-related bond measures in both 2016 and 2020.
In response to this ordinance, Fairly filed a lawsuit in Potter County against the city of Amarillo in late May, challenging the legality of the city using the notes for this project. In response to Fairly’s lawsuit, the city filed its own lawsuit in Potter County, asking a judge to validate the use of the notes. Those two lawsuits have since been combined into one overall case.
In August, a group of Amarillo citizens started the petition process to overturn the ordinance, wanting to bring back the measure to a vote. According to previous reports, the Amarillo City Charter states that organizers are required to collect signatures from “not less than five percent of the registered voters within the City of Amarillo” in the span of 120 days.
On Monday, two Amarillo citizens officially submitted the petition to the city of Amarillo. According to previous reports, the petition has been signed by 12,575 individuals and the city has 21 days to verify that all the signatures came from those who live within the Amarillo city limits.
What does Wednesday’s motion say?
The aim of Wednesday’s motion is for the ongoing lawsuit in Potter County to be abated, pending the resolution of the petition. The documents state that Fairly’s legal team expects for the outcome of the petition to “likely cause the subject matter of (the) lawsuit to become moot” after “thousands of taxpayers have spoken” through this lawsuit.
According to the documents, along with previous reports, the city has 21 days to verify the signatures from the petition. After verification, the city secretary is required to present the petition at the next City Council meeting, after which the council has 30 days to repeal or reject the repeal of the ordinance. If the council refuses to repeal the ordinance, the council is then required to “submit the repeal to a vote of the registered voters” in the city of Amarillo “at the next election date allowable by state law,” according to the court documents.
“If City Council or the voters of the City of Amarillo repeal Ordinance 7985, it will revoke and nullify the City of Amarillo’s authority to issue the tax anticipation notes under this lawsuit,” the documents said. “If the registered voters of the City of Amarillo decline to repeal Ordinance 7985 at a general election, then the anticipation notes at issue in this lawsuit would be approved by the citizens of Amarillo. In either event, this action would then become moot…”
The overall aim of Wednesday’s motion is for Sowder to abate all further proceedings in the litigation until the Amarillo City Council takes action on the petition, and/or for an election to be hosted.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the city of Amarillo’s legal team has not responded to Fairly’s legal team’s abatement motion. Sowder has also not responded via court documents as of the publication of this story.