AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – With at least one local judge recusing themselves from the case and a contentious petition from a business owner, multiple lawsuits regarding the future of Amarillo City Hall are returning to Potter County. However, though possibly temporary, the ongoing battle may reach a ceasefire Tuesday afternoon.
The City of Amarillo has been pursuing Certificates of Obligation (CO’s) with the intent to fund either the renovation of the city hall with “serious structural and mechanical issues”, the move of the departments housed in the building elsewhere, or its total reconstruction. However, due to argued ties to the failed “Proposition A” bond proposal from the 2020 election, local business owner Craig Gualtiere has issued a petition and failed a complaint against the city claiming that funding a city hall project with CO’s without an election is illegal.
Certificates of Obligation are usually backed by property taxes and other local revenues, according to a description from the Texas Comptroller. Unlike bonds like Proposition A, Certificates of Obligation do not require voter approval “unless 5 percent of qualified voters within the jurisdiction petition for an election on the spending in question.” The goal of Gualtiere’s petition, coming from that description, was to prove that at least 5 percent of Amarillo voters wanted an election to approve or reject the City’s pursuit of the certificates.
Gualtiere’s complaint found its way to Travis County’s 200th District Court on Monday alongside a suit from the City of Amarillo. The city argued that issuing CO’s without an election process is legal, the city hall project and “Proposition A” are separate. The city also asked for an expedited declaratory judgment, as well as asking Attorney General Ken Paxton to examine Gualtiere’s petition, in accordance with Texas Local Government Code.
However, the Travis County court ruled that both the lawsuit and Gualtiere’s complaint will be tried together in Potter County.
The courts are now in the process of moving the lawsuits in accordance with the ruling, though a visiting judge will hear the case in Potter County after a local judge stepped back from the case.
Tuesday afternoon, the Amarillo City Council is expected to hold a regular meeting. On the non-consent agenda, there is an item that would possibly withdraw the plan to issue CO’s for the city hall project.
“Them just pulling the COs doesn’t doesn’t answer the court’s question about the validity of my petition, or the validity of my lawsuit,” Gualtiere said. “I mean, if they just pull it off the agenda, or they vote to pull it off the agenda do they just bring it up at another time? You know, then do I have to go out there and get more signatures? Again?”
This story is developing. Check with MyHighPlains.com for updates.