Amarillo taxpayers will not be paying off the debt for a brand-new civic center complex after all.

On Tuesday, Judge William Sowder issued the verdict in a lawsuit brought by businessman Alex Fairly in relation to a $275 million tax anticipation note debt issuance approved earlier this year. In Sowder’s ruling, the court found that the debt issuance was invalid since tax anticipation notes are designed to fund public works, and the civic center project does not qualify as such.

In addition to this point, Sowder also found that the City of Amarillo violated the Texas Open Meetings Act in issuing the debt with an improperly written agenda. Notably, Sowder also found that the Amarillo City Charter’s provision for citizen petitioning for citywide referendums also applies to debt issuances approved by the city council. This point contradicts the claim made by City of Amarillo attorneys that citizens could not legally petition to stop a debt issuance after it had been approved by the city council.

Aside from the verdict, Sowder also awarded Fairly attorney fees in excess of $351,000.

Following the release of the verdict, Fairly issued a video on social media reacting to the verdict and expressing his excitement that local taxpayers prevailed in the lawsuit.

“I’m thankful for our system and that a regular, ordinary, everyday guy can still raise his hand and say, ‘I don’t think this is right,’ and still get a voice and fair day in court,” Fairly said.

This is just the latest defeat against the Amarillo City Council’s push to build a new civic center complex, following voter rejections of bond proposals for similar plans in 2016 and 2020.

Several local conservative leaders praised the verdict, including Congressman Ronny Jackson.

“[This is a] huge win for the taxpayers,” Jackson posted on Facebook.

Thomas Warren

Thomas Warren, III is the editor-in-chief of the Amarillo Pioneer newspaper in Amarillo, Texas.