City Officials Accused of Conflict of Interest
Allegations regarding conflicts of interest and First Amendment violations led to a contentious interchange between two citizens and Amarillo City Council last Tuesday.
Allegations over a conflict of interest involving an Amarillo city council member and the mayor led to a heated public comment period Tuesday – only exacerbating the turmoil between certain community members and the city council.
Residents Mike Fisher and Claudette Smith attended the public comment period at Tuesday’s city council meeting where business dealings among council members and First Amendment Rights violations were raised. Fisher questioned Amarillo City Council Member Eddy Sauer and Mayor Ginger Nelson’s separate ownership in companies located downtown that he says benefitted financially from the city. Specifically mentioned was Amarillo’s “Center City Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone” (TIRZ), a public financing tool using increased property tax revenue for downtown development projects.
“No, we’re not going to do this,” Nelson responded, trying to end the discussion. “This is not City business, you are engaging in a personal attack.”
Fisher replied, “This is City business … This guy owns a business that you gave a $250,000 tax rebate to. That’s City business.”
Smith, who also addressed the council, criticized them for being selective in which citizens they allowed to speak freely during the public comment period and who they respond to on their social media pages. Like her response to Fisher, Nelson stopped Smith, saying the topic wasn’t relevant to council business. “You’re taking away my First Amendment right,” Smith said.
Sauer denied ownership in any company benefitting from city tax incentives while the mayor refused to engage in the discussion with Fisher.