AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Officials with the city of Amarillo are seeking to combine two lawsuits related to its use of anticipation notes to help fund improvements and the expansion of the Amarillo Civic Center Complex, according to documents recently filed in the 320th Judicial District Court in Potter County.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, Amarillo businessman Alex Fairly, the president of the Fairly Group filed a lawsuit in late May in the 108th Judicial District Court in Potter County, stating that he believes how the city used anticipation notes towards the Amarillo Civic Center Complex project is illegal.
The city of Amarillo then filed its own lawsuit in early June, seeking an “expedited declaratory judgment,” where a Potter County judge would rule that the city’s issuance of the notes was “legal, valid and enforceable,” according to previous reports.
If the court does not choose to consolidate the lawsuits, city officials are requesting that the court enjoin, or stop, Fairly’s lawsuit until the city’s own lawsuit is resolved, according to new documents filed in late June.
How did we get to this point?
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the Amarillo City Council voted 4-1 during the May 24 meeting to approve an ordinance which would give the city the ability to issue an amount not to exceed $260,525,000 in anticipation notes to help fund the expansion and renovations to the Amarillo Civic Center Complex.
According to court documents, these notes would help fund the addition of an arena on the site, along with improvements to the Amarillo Santa Fe Depot property and any needed land and rights-of-way. The notes would also help cover any professional services needed in this project.
This comes after a bond to pay for the project was brought forward to Amarillo voters in November 2020. After 61% of Amarillo voters voted against that bond, the Amarillo City Council took time to search for other ways to fund the project.
The Amarillo City Council then chose to enter into a pre-developments services agreement with Garfield Public/Private LLC to explore potential options to fund the project. According to previous reports, the council heard the final report from Garfield before they voted to issue the anticipation notes-centered ordinance.
After this vote, Fairly filed a lawsuit on May 27 which claimed that the city council’s use of the anticipation notes for the project was illegal, citing Texas Government Code 1431. According to previous reports, the lawsuit’s aim is to prevent the city from using the notes because it goes against the will of the voters after they voted down the bond in 2020.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, that chapter of the Texas Government Code outlines what anticipation notes can be used to pay for, including:
- Construction of public works
- Purchase of materials, supplies, buildings, lands, and other items for various needs
- Operating or current expenses for a professional service, including those from an engineer, architect, attorney auditor, or fiscal agent.
Officials with the city of Amarillo then filed their own suit on June 8, aimed at the court saying that how they used the notes was legal under that chapter of Texas Government Code. According to previous reports, the city’s goal out of its lawsuit is to have a declaration from a judge that validates the use of the anticipation funds under Texas Government Code Chapter 1431.
Documents at the time stated that the city hopes a final ruling from the Potter County Judge declares that the city has the authorization to issue the notes and that the ordinance is a valid purpose for which the anticipation notes can be authorized.
What do the new court documents say?
According to court documents filed on June 24, the city of Amarillo is requesting that a Potter County Judge bring the two lawsuits, Fairly’s lawsuit along with the city’s separate lawsuit, forward together on the scheduled court date at 10 a.m. July 5 in the 320th Judicial District Court of Potter County.
In the motion, officials from the city of Amarillo said that both lawsuits cover the same ground: determining whether or not the city’s use of the anticipation notes for the Amarillo Civic Center Complex project is legal.
“In accordance with the Texas Government Code, for the sake of efficiency, and to avoid additional expense, further delays that will only result in greater expense, and the risk of inconsistent rulings, the lawsuits should be consolidated and jointly tried on July 5, 2022,” the documents read.
The documents state that whether or not Fairly’s allegations have any merit, every claim that Fairly makes regards the validity of the anticipation notes, the validity of the ordinance issuing the notes and the action the City Council associated with authorizing the ordnance. This is why the city is stressing that both matters should be tried in Potter County Court at the same time.
“The Fairly Lawsuit is comprised of a scattershot collection of allegations contending that both the Notes and Ordinance are invalid, none of which has a basis in fact or law,” the documents from the city of Amarillo’s team read. “Notwithstanding, there is not disputing the Fairly Lawsuit is wholly concerned with the validity of the Notes and the Ordinance that are the subject of the case at bar.”
According to previous reports, the city is looking to have an expedited judgment for its use of the anticipation notes under the Expedited Declaratory Judgments Act. Under that portion of Texas Government Code, which is Chapter 1205, officials claim that a court can “enjoin” or stop a “legal action that disputes or challenges the justness or legality of something done in connection with the public security.”
If a judge does not consolidate the two lawsuits, the city is asking for Fairly’s lawsuit to be enjoined from moving forward until the final judgment of the city’s lawsuit is entered, the documents read.
“The City firmly believes there is no real question that the Notes are valid and City Council’s actions in authorizing them are equally valid,” the documents read. The City understands Mr. Fairly and his legal team contend otherwise. Ultimately, the validity of the Notes is a matter for the Court to decide. The Expedited Declaratory Judgment Act provides for consolidate and joint trial of lawsuits such as the Fairly Lawsuit or, in the alternative, enjoining such lawsuit.”
However, in the city’s response to Fairly’s original petition, which was filed Monday morning in the 108th Judicial District Court of Potter County, city of Amarillo counsel continued to deny Fairly’s claims of wrongdoing, stating that Fairly lacks standing in those claims. They also say that they are “immune” from a lawsuit and liability under the “doctrines of governmental/sovereign immunity.”
As of Monday afternoon, the bench trial for the city’s lawsuit continues to be scheduled for 10 a.m. on July 5 in the 320th Judicial District Court of Potter County. No further documentation has been filed, as of Monday afternoon, on whether or not the two lawsuits will indeed be combined.