AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — William Sowder, the visiting judge in Potter County overseeing the ongoing Civic Center Complex funding-related lawsuit, recently filed an order for three decisions, setting the stage for the lawsuit to move forward later this year.
This comes after an initial hearing was hosted in Potter County Court earlier this month. According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, Sowder made the decision to combine two Civic Center Complex funding-related lawsuits, one by Amarillo Businessman Alex Fairly and the other by the city of Amarillo, into one. Both lawsuits centered around the funding mechanism the city plans to use to help fund the expansion and renovations to the complex.
Back in May, the Amarillo City Council voted to approve an ordinance allowing the city to issue an amount not to exceed $260,525,000 in anticipation notes to fund the project. Fairly filed a lawsuit in Potter County just a few days after the vote, claiming that the use of the notes in that fashion was illegal. The legal team from the city of Amarillo filed its own suit in June, asking for a judge to validate the legality of the anticipation notes for this project.
While a decision surrounding the combination of the two lawsuits was made during the initial hearing on July 5, Sowder did not make decisions about the trial’s discovery process, the kind of trial that would occur, or when the trial would occur. In an email sent to members of the parties’ counsel on July 11, Sowder made decisions on those three items, giving the trial the opportunity to proceed later this year.
According to the email, filed in Potter County Court Monday afternoon and obtained by MyHighPlains.com, Sowder ordered that there will be a final hearing for this case in the first week of October 2022. Sowder said that the court is allowing two days for the trial of the case.
Sowder also ordered that this trial will be in front of a judge, and not a jury trial. Sowder said in the email that this is “due to the provisions of Chapter 1205 of the Texas Government Code and/or there are only legal issues to be resolved in this case by the Court.”
Lastly, Sowder also expanded discovery for this case, giving the chance for more documents to be uncovered throughout the research for this case. This includes the following documents, which are required to be provided by Aug. 5:
- Ordinance 7985, in all drafts and forms, including as presented or proposed prior to the May 24 Regular Meeting and as written afterward;
- All correspondence, including emails and texts, attaching and/or discussing drafts of Ordinance 7985;
- All agendas, minutes, Amarillo City Council Agenda Transmittal 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;
- Final report submitted by Garfield Public/Private;
- All records and transcriptions of proceedings submitted by the City of Amarillo to the Public Finance Division of the Texas Attorney General’s office in connection with the City’s pursuit of approval and authorization of the notes at issue in this case;
- All records and documents, including memoranda and work notes showing calculations regarding the calculation of tax rates necessary to satisfy the pledge of ad valorem taxes purportedly made in Ordinance 7985 and the notes.
- All documents, records, meeting minutes and communications involving City council members or city employees in which all discussions -written and oral – involving the concept of using anticipation notes to finance the Civic Center project involving members of City Council are commemorated or referenced.
Sowder also said depositions will be allowed in this case, requesting that the depositions be completed by the afternoon of Sept. 23. Previously, Fairly’s team requested depositions be conducted for numerous city officials, including members of the Amarillo City Council, Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson and the city’s Chief Financial Officer Laura Storrs.
In a statement provided to MyHighPlains.com by the city of Amarillo, officials said that the city is not going to have “any additional information to provide on this situation until it’s resolved in the court.”
In a statement previously provided to MyHIghPlains.com, Nelson said:
“I remain committed to the ongoing legal process and I am certain this process will confirm the validity of the City Council’s action related to the tax notes for the civic center. My primary hope is that this matter can be resolved as quickly as possible with the least expense to our citizen taxpayers both in litigation costs and added expense to the project overall.”Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson
In a statement provided to MyHighPlains.com, Fairly said:
“We are pleased and grateful to have been given the time and opportunity to conduct investigation and discovery to prepare for a fair trial on the issues. We look forward to a thorough inquiry into the merits of what would become the largest tax note package in Texas history.
We remain focused not on the issue of whether we should have a new Civic Center but instead, on the issue of whether four Council members and a minority of supporters can override the majority of Amarilloans who have spoken so clearly.”Alex Fairly
This story is developing. Check with MyHighPlains.com for updates