Amarillo taxpayers were handed a major legal victory after an appellate court affirmed a trial court’s judgment that halted the proposed Amarillo Civic Center rebuild last year.

The Seventh Court of Appeals issued an opinion last week in favor of Alex Fairly, an Amarillo businessman who sued the City of Amarillo to stop a proposed debt-funded rebuild of the Amarillo Civic Center Complex last year. Voters had rejected a similar project in a 2020 bond election. After the City of Amarillo lost the lawsuit at the trial court level, they appealed to the Seventh Court of Appeals in hopes of moving forward with the project.

In the appeal, the City of Amarillo contested the trial court’s jurisdiction to invalidate the City Council’s debt issuance, argued that the City Council did not violate the Texas Open Meetings Act when passing the debt issuance, and said that the City should not have to pay attorney’s fees to Fairly.

Writing for the court, Justice Larry Doss issued a scathing opinion overruling each of the appeals made by the City. Specifically, Doss’ opinion affirmed that the City of Amarillo overstepped state law in several aspects when pushing the proposed debt-funded rebuild of the Civic Center Complex.

Looking forward, the City of Amarillo could appeal the decision by the court further, but is unlikely to do so. The city’s newly-elected mayor, Cole Stanley, was the only member of the City Council to vote against the debt issuance and argued during his campaign that the City of Amarillo should drop the Civic Center lawsuit appeal.

Thomas Warren

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