Who Does Mayor Nelson Think She is Fooling? July 3, 2017

 We have been down this path before.  Prior to being graced with the belligerent and hot-headed Mayor Harpole, we had the “beloved” Mayor McCartt.  She smiled and kept her sweet public disposition while voting on issues that affected her personally.  Privately, her conversations revealed a different side.  Now we have Mayor Ginger Nelson.  As the powers-that-be (most recently incarnated as Amarillo Matters) foist their version of good cop/bad cop/good cop on the citizens, the only thing that remains constant is that taxpayers are repeatedly duped.


Those who know her personally will swear Ms. Nelson is a straight shooter.  She apparently exudes the smell of roses everywhere she goes.  But scratch through the thin veneer of a surface, and a much different persona will begin to appear.


Who are the Nelsons?  Ginger is the daughter of an attorney/oil and gas man from Spearman, Texas.  She and her husband own a lot of properties in Amarillo, including the Amarillo Building.  They have been involved in some of the biggest downtown property transactions over the past several years.  That should be enough of a conflict to preclude her from being involved in anything having to do with the expenditure of taxpayer funds in downtown Amarillo.  But, apparently, concerns about conflicts of interest for business people, politicians and attorneys stop at the City limits.


Ms. Nelson and her husband were also partners with the group that purchased and then resold the Chase Tower a few years ago.   The group included the usuals, Joe Bob McCartt, Alan Rhodes, etc, etc.  Ms. Nelson's involvement with the Amarillo Economic Development Council and the transaction with her business partner Alan Rhodes and the AEDC netted an FBI investigation.  The conclusion of that investigation remain unknown.  Despite (because of?) this questionable history, Ms. Nelson was added to the Board of Directors of Happy State Bank in August of last year.  Ms. Nelson has refused to answer questions about whether or not she and/or her husband are investors in the downtown hotel...which carries a taxpayer guaranteed occupancy.


I recently had a conversation with some acquaintances of Ms. Nelson.  They are outraged at the concept of a downtown ballpark and what has been going on downtown.  Yet, they remain convinced that Ms. Nelson is as pure as snow.  They expressed the hope that Ms. Nelson could straighten things out.  I didn't have the heart to burst their bubble, at least not entirely.  I only mentioned that she has refused to answer as to whether or not she is an investor in the hotel.


Then there is this.  Well in advance of the the news conference announcing the agreement with the Elmore Sports Group, Ms. Nelson placed a call to a supporter asking the supporter to circulate an invitation to stack the news conference with supporters.  According to an email obtained by Amarillo Exposed, the invitation to supporters, which included date, time and place of the event, was circulated days before even the media were notified of the press conference, thus ensuring that Ms. Nelson would receive positive coverage of the event at which the announcement was made....an announcement which involves the use of a massive amount of taxpayer money which has the very distinct possibility of putting money directly and/or indirectly into the pocket of our sweet-as-roses Mayor.


Note to reader:  No comments were sought from City/County Officials for this article.  Amarillo Exposed has asked that all City officials cease contact with Amarillo Exposed until the threats being made against Amarillo Exposed, citizens and/or journalists and those associated with Amarillo Exposed are fully investigated by an independent party.  Any communication from any City official would inherently carry the full weight of those threats unless/until those threats are fully investigated and City officials.  There is a purpose behind those threats and until the City takes steps to put a stop to the threats, they are proving that they have no intention of honest and open dialogue with ALL citizens.  


Commissioner Church to Constituent: Your Well-Reasoned Argument is Unreasonable, July 3, 2017

 According to multiple residents of the Rolling Hills neighborhood, speeding is an ongoing problem.  Suggested solutions to the problem have included such things as putting up “kids at play” indicators, increasing the number of speed limit signs, putting up a speed indicator, or making citizen complaints to the sheriff.  The problem has been addressed multiple times by the Rolling Hills Homeowners Association.  One resident has even stated that he has taken to yelling at speeders.  Nothing seems to slow the dangerous drivers.


One citizen took it upon himself to take a logical step.  He contacted his elected representative, Potter County Commissioner Leon Church.  In a text exchange provided to Amarillo Exposed, the citizen proposed installing speed bumps.  Commissioner Church responded:  “It is illegal as I understand to put speed bumps on a county road.”


The citizen responded to Commissioner Church that speed bumps could be installed with approval from the Texas Department of Transportation.  The citizen even included an opinion from the Texas Attorney General's office laying out the legal basis for installation of speed bumps on county roads.  You can read that opinion here:


https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/opinions/opinions/49cornyn/op/2000/pdf/jc0175.pdf 


Fourteen minutes after receiving the preceding text (obviously not enough time to read and comprehend a 4-page legal opioion), Commissioner Church responded: 


“You have become unreasonable.  The county has done all that is reasonable to satisfy you.  You need to find something positive to focus on.  Thank you and this will be my last response to you.” 


For some inexplicable reason, Commissioner Church's response was copied to the sheriff's office.


Where to begin?  What is unreasonable about expressing concern and proposing solutions to a dangerous problem?  What is unreasonable about providing an attorney general opinion in response to an incorrect statement by a Commissioner?  Why the need to copy the sheriff?  Was this some sort of threat should the citizen continue his/her pursuit of a solution to a problem that the Commissioner chooses to bother to consider?


This exchange is illustrative of a pervasive problem of local elected authorities.  They don't like it when their ignorance and/or authority are challenged.  They respond with projections of their own hypocritical behavior (your well-reasoned argument is unreasonable), demeaning statements (find something positive to focus on), child-like tantrums (I'm not speaking to you any more) and the use of threats by law-enforcement (I'm copying the sheriff so he can keep his eye on you)..


These same elected officials have no problem suspending all reason when it comes to requests from prominent/well-connected citizens.


Note to reader:  No comments were sought from City/County Officials for this article.  Amarillo Exposed has asked that all City officials cease contact with Amarillo Exposed until the threats being made against Amarillo Exposed, citizens and/or journalists and those associated with Amarillo Exposed are fully investigated by an independent party.  Any communication from any City official would inherently carry the full weight of those threats unless/until those threats are fully investigated and City officials.  There is a purpose behind those threats and until the City takes steps to put a stop to the threats, they are proving that they have no intention of honest and open dialogue with ALL citizens.  

Has City Hall Been Intentionally Violating TOMA? June 6, 2017

 Amarillo City Attorney Marcus Norris resigned shortly after the newly elected Three Musketeers (who turned out to be more like the Three Amigos) came riding into town after the 2015 elections.  Newly elected Council Members Randy Burkett, Mark Nair, and Elisha Demerson were brash in their statements about the change they were going to bring with them.  Norris was quickly and quietly replaced by Mick McKamie (more on that in a future articles).

One of the meetings at which controversy erupted came in September, when three Amarillo Local Government Board members were replaced  Following are excerpts from the September 8, 2015 agenda with regard Board appointments.  This wording was typical of agendas prepared for Council meetings with regard to appointment of new board and commission members.:

  http://amarillo.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=521
      10.   APPOINTMENTS - BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS:            
Appointments are needed for the following board: Amarillo Local Government Corporation (3-year terms)
03/22/2011 Ron Boyd 09/30/2015
03/22/2011 Richard Brown 09/30/2015
12/02/2014 Lilia Escajeda 09/30/2017   

The following information was provided at the end of the agenda:

 MISCELLANEOUS   

    1.   Boards and Commissions - appointments as listed on attached.   Amarillo City Hall is accessible to individuals with disabilities through its main entry on the south side (Southeast 7th Avenue) of the building.  An access ramp leading to the main entry is located at the southwest corner of the building.  Parking spaces for individuals with disabilities are available in the south parking lot.  City Hall is equipped with restroom facilities, communications equipment and elevators that are accessible.  Individuals with disabilities who require special accommodations or a sign language interpreter must contact the City Secretary’s Office 48 hours prior to meeting time by telephoning 378-3013 or the City TDD number at 378-4229.   Posted this 4th day of September 2015.  

This was a very high profile meeting.  Here is the headline from one media outlet describing the meeting: Amarillo City Council 'marathon' meeting ends in ousting of LGC board member 

 http://abc7amarillo.com/news/local/marathon-amarillo-city-council-meeting-ends-in-ousting-of-lgc-board-member 

After a few more months of contentious interactions between Council members, December 9th, 2015 brought news of a new “Code of Conduct” for City Council members: New 'Code of Conduct' coming for Amarillo City Council 

 http://abc7amarillo.com/news/local/new-code-of-conduct-coming-for-amarillo-city-council-12-10-2015 

This “Code of Conduct” was reportedly written by Interim City Attorney Mick KcKamie.  But the Code of Conduct was not the only change.  In the agenda for the December 15, 2015, City Council meeting following the new code of conduct announcement, a small but legally and practically significant change was made when it comes to discussion of nominees for boards and commissions: 

http://amarillo.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=557

  (5) The City Council may convene in Executive Session in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act, Texas Government Code, Section 551.074,  Discussion regarding appointments to vacant positions; 

The agenda now cited Section 551.074 of the Texas Open Meetings Act and stated that “appointments" could be held behind closed doors.  The wording contained in the December 21, 2015 agenda was identical.  By January, the wording changed to specifically address Board positions: 

B.   City Council may convene in Executive Session in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act, Texas Government Code, Section 551.074, Discussion regarding appointments to vacant Board positions; Section 551.074, to conduct annual review of Council appointee Municipal Court Judge  

By now it was clear.  The City Council would discuss Board appointments behind closed doors if they chose, citing Section 551.074 of the Texas Open Meetings Act.  In agenda after agenda, since it's first appearance, similar wording appears with regard to Board appointments.   In fact, here is the wording for the first meeting after the meeting at which the new slate of 5 Amarillo Matters supported candidates were sworn in: 

http://amarillo.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=755
 
      B.   City Council may convene in Executive Session to receive reports on or discuss any of the following pending projects or matters:      
 
 (2) Discuss the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, and qualifications of a public officer or employee, in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act, Section 551.074. Discussion regarding appointment to fill vacancies to the Board of the Amarillo Local Government Corporation. 

The meeting was held on May 23, 2017.  Here's the problem: that wording is misleading and likely intentionally so.

According to the 2016 Open Meetings Handbook published by the Texas Attorney General, any time a governmental agency, in this case the City Council, intends to have a closed meeting, the governmental agency must cite the specific code which allows them to meet in a closed session.  The agenda DOES cite a specific code, but changes the wording to make it appear that it has the authority under TOMA to meet in executive session to discuss board appointments.  The wording in the agenda does not match the wording in the Handbook which, in turn, cites directly from the Texas Open Meetings Act: 

6. Section 551.074.  Personnel Matters   Section 551.074 authorizes certain deliberations about officers and employees of the governmental body to be held in executive session:   (a) This chapter does not require a governmental body to conduct an open meeting:   (1) to deliberate the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal of a public officer or employee; or   (2) to hear a complaint or a charge against an officer or employee.   (b) Subsection (a) does not apply if the officer or employee who is the subject of the deliberation or hearing requests a public hearing.308   

The fact that the section that the City Council is using to discuss Board appointments in private is titled “Personnel Matters” is the first and most obvious clue that something is amiss.  Second, although the agenda cites a specific section, as required by law, it does not use the wording of the law that is cited. 

So, what is the law and does it give the City Council the authority to meet in executive session to discuss Board appointments?  Without going through all the details of the research performed by Amarillo Exposed, the question appears to essentially come to this: 

The purpose of the law is to avoid discussing private information about an employee in public. There is one caveat.  The statute applies to “public officers” OR “employees.”  It does not define what constitutes a public officer.    However, a subsequent opinion by the Attorney General's office states: “A public officer generally has a fixed term and may be removed only in accordance with the applicable provisions of law.” 

Is an LGC Board member an employee?  Clearly, the answer is no.  We can then move on to the question of whether an LGC Board member is a "public officer".  According to the opinion from the Attorney General's office cited above, there are two parts to this question.

Does an LGC Board member have a fixed term?  Presumably, pending the review of the LGC articles of incorporation, below. 

Can an LGC Board member be removed only in accordance with the applicable provisions of law?  The answer to this question is a definite NO.  In fact, at the September 8, 2015 City Council meeting, Lilia Escajeda was removed before her term expired.  The answer to this question is further clarified by the LGC Articles of Incorporation, which contains the following:

 “Any Board member may be removed from office at any time, with or without cause, by the City Commission of the City.” 

(Note:  At the time the LGC Articles of Incorporation were filed with the State, what is now known as the Amarillo City Council, was then known as the Amarillo City Commission.)

It is very clear.  An LGC Board member can be removed at any time for any reason and thus does not meet the definition of a “Public Officer” according to the opinion issued by the Attorney General. 

The City Council did indeed go behind closed doors to discuss LGC Board appointments at the May 23, 2017 City Council meeting. 

According to one citizen present, the City Council remained in work session until well after the regular meeting was to have begun.  They were late to the meeting because they were still in executive session, according to this citizen.  When the Council members finally entered the chamber and began the Cit Council meeting, the item addressing the LGC appointments had been moved to the end of the meeting.  When that agenda item came up, the City Council again returned into executive session.  Here is one account of what transpired:

  http://amarillo.com/local-news/news/2017-05-23/city-councilmen-eddy-sauer-howard-smith-tapped-fill-lgc-board-seats 

1 Behind closed doors: After convening in executive session, city council members returned to the public meeting and nominated and unanimously appointed councilmen Eddy Sauer and Howard Smith to fill the LGC board seats vacated by former council members Lisa Blake and Randy Burkett. The council didn’t openly discuss the appointments or how they determined which council members would serve for the influential board. When asked why by the Amarillo Globe-News, Smith shrugged and said, “I don’t know. We could have.” Sauer told the Globe-News that both he and Smith volunteered for the appointments. 

After a question was raised about the need for meeting in executive session to discuss LGC Board appointments, someone apparently decided the gig was up.  The subsequent agendas have been changed.  They are now similar to what they were prior the date the changes were initiated in late 2015 and early 2016.  All reference to Section 551.074 of the Texas Open Meetings Act was immediately removed from the following agenda for the May 30, 2017 Board meeting:

http://amarillo.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=757

In fact, the meeting scheduled for June 6, 2017 lists another discussion about yet another LGC Board appointment after the resignation of Amarillo Globe News publisher Les Simpson (much more on this at a later date).  But no mention of 551.074.

http://amarillo.gov/departments/citymgr/2017/agenda/agenda_06_06_2017_17_00_00.pdf?v=1496434509 

Apparently, the risk of being caught violating the Texas Open Records Act (after being questioned by a reporter and an honest response from a an unwitting City Council member) became greater than whatever reward was gained by illegally meeting in executive session to discuss Board appointments.

Not only does it appear that the TOMA  has been regularly violated by the City Council, there are a number of indications which make it appear as though the author(s) of the agenda was/were INTENTIONALLY misleading the citizens of Amarillo and thus intentionally violating the Texas Open Meetings Act. 

First, and most obviously, was the admission by Council member Sauer. 

The second indication is the timing.  Someone intentionally made this change, and then changed it back when they apparently feared their actions might be discovered. 

Third is the wording.  Although a specific statute is cited, it appears that the wording from the purported statute cited was re-written so as to be intentionally misleading. 

Fourth, City Attorney Mick McKamie is a purported TOMA expert (more on that in the future).  How is it that a TOMA expert could accidentally make such a HUGE error with potentially even BIGGER ramifications? 

Fifth is the violent reaction and threats of official repression that continue to emanate from offices of local officials any time they are questioned about their questionable activities.  Although not specific to this one particular issue, it is an indication that City officials have much to hide.  

Sixth is a related issue.  That is the lack of concern for the well being of citizens that are being threatened and the failure to take complaints seriously, much less investigate those threats. It is clear demonstration that City officials have no interest in putting a stop to the threats against those who might expose wrongdoing and/or corruption, and therefore another indication that they have much they are hiding.

This all raises some very important questions about Board appointments (and much larger questions I'll leave unasked for now).

Why was this done?

At who's direction?

Who knew about it?

How many appointments to various Boards were made after discussions behind closed doors?

What are the legal ramifications of those appointments?

Are the actions taken by Boards containing members who were appointed after behind-closed-door discussions legally valid?

Amarillo Exposed has/will contacted/contact the Texas Attorney General's Open Records Division requesting comment.

Note to reader:  No comments were sought from City Officials for this article.  Amarillo Exposed has asked that all City officials cease contact with Amarillo Exposed until the threats being made against Amarillo Exposed, citizens and/or journalists and those associated with Amarillo Exposed are fully investigated by an independent party.  Any communication from any City official would inherently carry the full weight of those threats unless/until those threats are fully investigated and City officials.  There is a purpose behind those threats and until the City takes steps to put a stop to the threats, they are proving that they have no intention of honest and open dialogue with ALL citizens.
 

Response from the City Attorney's office.

Courtney White of the City Attorney's office responded to my email below (although I specifically asked to not be contacted) by asking if I was withdrawing outstanding open records requests.  She did not address the issue of threats coming from her office/Mayor's office/Municipal Court.  

WOW! They are clearly aware of the issue but are consciously and intentionally choosing not to address the issue. 

Two additional issues

In the article posted below, I address in detail the threats made by City Attorney Mick McKamie against the citizens of Amarillo at a City Council meeting, using threats of libel and slander.  In the article, I pointed out that the issue of libel was a clear "tell" that this was a threat against citizens because libel only applies to the written word.

There is one other possibility, especially in light of recent events.  His statement could have been a threat against anyone posting on social media and/or against any journalists.

McKamie's comments appear to be more in line with comments Randy Burkett's personal attorney would make rather than a City Attorney.  Who is McKamie representing, the City or the Mayor and Council members individually/personally?

Emailed: Wed, May 31, 2017 at 10:54 AM

Until the issues of threats and intimidation coming from the City Attorney's office and/or the Mayor's office and/or the Municipal Court (and all the associated agencies given the connections of those employed in the Municipal Court) are resolved, every communication and interaction with any City employee or representative of the City carries the full weight of those threats.  In that light, I sent the following email.


To:   City, Frances.Hibbs, Bryan.McWilliams., Mick.McKamie, Courtney.White 

 I wish no further contact with anyone at City Hall until/unless it is in regards to initiation, progress or findings of an independent investigation of the threats against citizens/journalists coming from City officials including, but not limited to, the Municipal Court, the Mayor's office, and the office of the City Attorney. 

This notice applies to any and all outstanding issues regarding open records requests.  Those issues will be taken up once the threats have ceased and have been properly investigated.

Any future articles will written without comment from City officials based on publicly available information and/or information already obtained.  

McKamie No Stranger to Making Threats, Creating Controversy

May 29, 2017, 7:40pm


 It should come as no surprise that City Attorney Mick McKamie and the Mayor and City Council are not willing to investigate threats coming from the Municipal Court.  The Municipal Court Judge, Sonya Letson, is appointed by the Mayor and City Council.  But City Hall has refused to respond to the reported threats, much less take action, regarding those threats. 

The latest threats, from the Municipal Court, came in response to the launching of www.amarilloexposed.com, which promised to unmask public corruption.  Apparently, some in positions of authority feel concerned by that prospect. 

The threats from the Municipal Court continue a recent tradition of City officials abusing their authority by threatening any citizen that questions the actions of those same City officials.  Not even other City officials are immune from the threats. 

 Just prior to a City Council meeting after the run-off election in which Mark Nair was elected, then City Attorney Marcus Norris was observed red-faced and screaming at Councilman Nair inside City Hall.  In addition, at the first City Council meeting with the three newly elected council members, Amarillo Police Department officers showed up en masse in an apparent attempt at intimidation, according to one attendee at the Council meeting. 

When asked if he felt the officers were there to intimidate citizens, Councilman Nair, who originally made calls for accountability with regards to taxpayer money spent on downtown development, responded that he felt the officers were there to intimidate him.  

 Regardless of whether the officers were there to intimidate newly elected council members or citizens or both, this is an EXTREME misuse of authority, but appears to be business as usual in Amarillo, Texas.  It is not difficult to imagine who might have been behind such an orchestration of intimidation.  There were only two returning members of the Council:  Mayor Paul Harpole and Councilman Dr. Brian Eades.   Mayor Harpole had previously ordered a barrier be erected between the Council and citizens during council meetings....implying that somehow citizens were a threat to the Council. 

When an open records request was sent asking for documentation as to the number of officers present and who orchestrated the intimidation attempt, the office of the previously observed red-faced and screaming Norris successfully argued to the Texas Attorney General's office that they could not provide the requested documents because doing so would reveal tactics used to thwart terrorists and terrorist related activities.  And there is the essence.  City Hall treats citizens as terrorist any time they question the actions of the Council and the Council is not above using law enforcement officials to silence their critics.  

This pattern of City officials making threats continued with the hiring of Interim City Manager Terry Childers.  In several well-publicized meltdowns, Terry Childers threatened the jobs of 911 dispatchers and tried to order the APD to do his bidding.  In a petition which gathered nearly double the 1,000 signature goal, reasons for asking for the resignation of Terry Childers cited threats and oppression, among many others. 

The City Council refused to heed the wishes of Amarillo citizens, choosing, instead, to back an abusive City Manager over the well-being of other City employees and the town's own citizens.  More controversies would follow. 

Ultimately, City Manager Childers was allowed to resign after he called a citizen a dumb son of a b---- during a City Council meeting.   

The pattern of threats and abuse of citizens who dared expose a dissenting opinion continued into this year, providing another clue as to who might have ordered the intimidating police presence after the 2015 election of three new Council members who promised to end business as usual in Amarillo.  (A promise that turned out to be as barren as the prairie that surrounds Amarillo.) 

By early 2017, Amarillo had a new City Attorney.  Paul Harpole was still mayor, but Lisa Blake had replaced Dr. Brian Eades on the council.  The new City Attorney was no stranger to causing and/or being involved in controversies:  

http://theforneypost.com/index.php/62-free-read/962-new-city-attorney-releases-thousands-of-un-redacted-public-records 

http://theforneypost.com/index.php/62-free-read/1042-assistant-city-manager-corson-refuses-to-comply-with-attorney-general-ruling 

 http://theforneypost.com/index.php/government/980-former-city-manager-brooks-threatens-citizens-with-lawsuit )   

In the week prior to the January 31, 2017 City Council meeting, Councilman Randy Burkett had, once again, made incendiary comments on social media that some considered racist and xenophobic.  This was a repeat of controversy that surrounded him after similar comments were brought to light prior to his election.  A large group of citizens, rightly outraged by the incendiary comments by Councilman Burkett, showed up to voice their concern.  But Mayor Harpole and now City Attorney Mick McKamie  came prepared to defend Burkett and his comments against the concerns of their own citizens.

 At the opening of the public comment period, Mayor Harpole ordered everyone to be seated and then read a prepared statement chastising citizens.  Mayor Harpole then raised the gavel over his head and threatened to gavel down any citizen who made comments he did not like.  In his comments, he claimed his concern was raised when he saw the large crowd with new faces.  The fact that he contradicted himself by reading a prepared statement did not seem to bother him.  City Attorney McKamie further contradicted the Mayor's claims that his concern was raised by the large crowd and new faces (as if citizens showing up for a council meeting is cause for concern) by his statement/actions.   

After finishing his comments, Mayor Harpole turned to City Attorney McKamie.  McKamie presented a slide and made comments about what topics may be discussed at City Council meetings.  Both McKamie and Harpole emphasized that Council members could not discuss anything that wasn't on the agenda.  But those comments served as only a distraction and belies their apparent true concern.   

At the outset of his comments, McKamie looked directly at the Mayor and stated, “As we discussed before...” then continued with his slide presentation.  Is the “we” in McKamie's statement meant to refer to the Mayor and McKamie, or McKamie and the entire council. One would assume, that since McKamie was looking at the Mayor when he made the comments, he was referring to the Mayor.  But there is no way to know from the video. 

McKamie then made comments coinciding with information presented on a slide regarding public discussion at City Council meetings.  From there, McKamie went on what appears to be an impromptu tirade against citizens.  “I would also like to add, Mayor, something I don't believe I've mentioned in this City Council meeting before.”  He continued with this threat, “When you stand at the podium, you do not have the protections against libel and slander that a public official does.” 

It is unclear what “protections” he is referring to.  In fact, according to a famous 1964 unanimous Supreme Court ruling, politicians have a MUCH HIGHER burden of proof when it comes to libel and slander than do ordinary citizens.  You can read about it here: 

  https://billofrightsinstitute.org/educate/educator-resources/lessons-plans/landmark-supreme-court-cases-elessons/new-york-times-v-sullivan-1964/.   

McKamie reveals his true motive by invoking the threat of libel.  Libel only applies to the written word and would not apply to someone speaking from "behind a podium."  Obviously McKamie was intentionally providing disinformation.

McKamie continued his attempts to silence citizens, saying, “Uh, you're just standing at a podium so keep that in mind,” referring to his earlier threats of libel and slander.  He continued, “That's one reason we do not allow public comment, typically, on Board, on particular individuals who are nominated for Boards and Commissions because you may or may not be aware of what you're saying about them in public, uh, but keep in mind that you do have these restrictions that apply and it's a very strict requirement of the Texas Open Meetings Act, Mayor, about your response and non-response.”  The last comment was made while, again, looking at the Mayor. 

 WOW!  This is a doozy.  He tries to couch his threats and attempts to silence citizens as concern FOR citizens.  Then he tries another misdirection and claims that not allowing comment on board and commission appointments is the same as not allowing citizen comments on the actions of sitting council members which reflect poorly on the City.  It could be argued that persons nominated for appointments are still private citizens and thus have a lower standard for proof of libel and slander.  Therefore, the two do not seem to be an equitable comparison. 

THEN, McKamie invokes the Texas Open Meetings Act, giving the impression that the TOMA addresses libel and slander.  It does not.  A search of the 2016 Open Meetings Handbook issued by the Texas Attorney General's office has zero mentions of either libel or slander. 

In addition, libel and slander, if proven, involve CIVIL penalties as opposed to criminal penalties.  City Attorney McKamie did not make this distinction to those in attendance.  Whether or not he intended to give the impression that citizens could be arrested by the armed APD officers present at the meeting is unknown.  

McKamie knows the TOMA well.  His law firm, according to published reports, spent over $2.5 million dollars suing the State of Texas over the TOMA.  (Much more on this in a future article.)  It appears that McKamie blatantly and intentionally blurred the lines between libel/slander and the TOMA to invoke the threat of the Texas Attorney General's Office against citizens in attendance at the January 31, 2017 and future meetings.

It is improbable that an experienced attorney who is a supposed expert on the TOMA would not know the issues raised above.  Therefore, it would appear that the comments were intentionally vague and intentionally worded so as to imply threat of arrest and/or lawsuits and/or action from the Attorney General's office in order to keep citizens from speaking about their concerns at a City Council meeting.

The comments from Mayor Harpole and City Attorney McKamie appear to have had the desired affect, according to one citizen in attendance.  The citizen claimed that many who had come to speak out in response to Councilman Burkett's comments reconsidered and chose not to speak.

Meanwhile, the entire City Council, whether or not they knew in advance of the apparent plan to thwart citizen comments, said nothing and raised no objections to McKamie's threats.  They meekly and tacitly gave their approval through their silence, having long ago been neutered. 

City Attorney McKamie twice offered to answer Amarillo Exposed's questions regarding the TOMA, but when asked specifically if his or Mayor Harpole's actions violated the TOMA, he refused to respond. 

The combination of Mayor Harpole's and City Attorney McKamie's comments and implied threats give rise to numerous concerns.  First, there are concerns that it was Mayor Harpole and City Attorney McKamie that violated the Texas Open Meetings Act through the use of threats and/or implied threats to silence citizens.  Amarillo Exposed has written to the Texas Attorney General's Office requesting an opinion on whether or not City Attorney McKamie's comments violate any aspect of the Texas Open Meetings Act. 

Second, and more importantly, what are the consequences of Mayor Harpole and City Attorney McKamie chastising and threatening citizens on behalf of a City Councilman who has made remarks that many consider racist and xenophobic?  Are the Mayor, former Councilman Burkett and City Attorney McKamie guilty of violating any City, State or Federal laws with regard to discrimination on the basis of religion and ethnicity?  Are they guilty of creating and/or encouraging a hostile work environment for City employees of different religious or ethnic backgrounds?  Have they opened the City up to lawsuits for discrimination and/or creating a hostile work environment?

Mick McKamie's boss, City Manager Jared Miller, as well the Mayor and City Council have refused to answer questions.  In fact, repeated requests for information regarding protections enjoyed by Amarillo City employees from racism and religious bigotry have been ignored.    

Third, a review of the City Council Policy and Procedures, adopted by that very Council and reportedly drafted by McKamie, does not reveal any specific mention of respecting religious or ethnic differences.  This appears to be a GLARING omission.  Even so, the code of conduct for Council members includes these sections 

 2. Recognize that the chief function of local government at all times is to serve the best interests of ALL citizens. (emphasis added)   

 8. The ultimate standard of ethical behavior shall be to avoid even the appearance of improper behavior on the part of Individual Council members or anyone associated with the City governance.    

It appears that, according to former Mayor Harpole and current City Attorney McKamie, not only is racist and/or xenophobic behavior not improper, it is to be defended.

 Howevrer, to a layman, the conduct of Councilman Burkett along with Mayor Harpole's and City Attorney McKamie's efforts to protect Councilman Burkett from criticism for that conduct by silencing citizens, would appear to violate these sections of the newly adopted policy.

Again, not a single council person raised any objection. 

Fourth, the conduct and defense of the conduct appears to violate City Code:  

   Sec. 2-6-5. - Conduct of members.  
  Board members shall:  

   (b)  Treat other members, the public, and staff with respect without prejudice based on race, gender, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or other unlawful basis.

Rather than defending Councilman Burkett, it appears that Mayor Harpole and City Attorney McKamie should have cited him for violating City Code. 

The fifth concern is the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Conduct for Texas Bar members, including City Attorney Mick McKamie and current Mayor Ginger Nelson.  As Mayor of the City, Ms. Nelson could be considered to be in a supervisory role over Mick McKamie.  Mayor Nelson did not respond to questions related to this article. 

The author is not an expert on the Texas Bar Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.  It is unclear if these rules apply to the current situation.  However, listed at the end of this article are some of the rules that might apply should the above detailed events have occurred in another venue.  In that regard, they are useful for comparing the conduct detailed above to conduct that the Texas Bar considers to be inappropriate behavior. 

I will end with two more questions:  Who is Mick McKamie and how did he come to be the City Attorney for the City of Amarillo?  I plan to explore these issues in a future article(s).
 

From the Texas Bar Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct

 
 Rule 4.04. Respect for Rights of Third Persons  (a) In representing a client, a lawyer shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person, or use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such a person. (b) A lawyer shall not present, participate in presenting, or threaten to present: (1) criminal or disciplinary charges solely to gain an advantage in a civil matter; or (2) civil, criminal or disciplinary charges against a complainant, a witness, or a potential witness in a bar disciplinary proceeding solely to prevent participation by the complainant, witness or potential witness therein. Comment: 1. Although in most cases a lawyer's responsibility to the interest of his client is paramount to the interest of other persons, a lawyer should avoid the infliction of needless harm. 2. Using or threatening to use the criminal process solely to coerce a party in a private matter improperly suggests that the criminal process can be manipulated by private interests for personal gain. However, giving any notice required by law or applicable rules of practice or procedure as a prerequisite to instituting criminal charges does not violate this Rule, unless the underlying criminal charges were made without probable cause. 3. Using or threatening to use the civil, criminal, or disciplinary processes to coerce a complainant, a 77 witness, or a potential witness in a bar disciplinary proceeding is an implication that lawyers can manipulate the legal system to their personal advantage. Creating such false impressions is an abuse of the legal system that diminishes public confidence in the legal profession and in the fairness of the legal system as a whole.   
 Rule 5.01. Responsibilities of a Partner or Supervisory Lawyer  A lawyer shall be subject to discipline because of another lawyer's violation of these rules of professional conduct if: (a) The lawyer is a partner or supervising lawyer and orders, encourages, or knowingly permits the conduct involved; or (b) The lawyer is a partner in the law firm in which the other lawyer practices, is the general counsel of a government agency's legal department in which the other lawyer is employed, or has direct supervisory authority over the other lawyer, and with knowledge of the other lawyer's violation of these rules knowingly fails to take reasonable remedial action to avoid or mitigate the consequences of the other lawyer's violation. Comment: 1. Rule 5.01 conforms to the general principle that a lawyer is not vicariously subjected to discipline for the misconduct of another person. Under Rule 8.04, a lawyer is subject to discipline if the lawyer knowingly assists or induces another to violate these rules. Rule 5.01(a) additionally provides that a partner or supervising lawyer is subject to discipline for ordering or encouraging another lawyer's violation of these rules. Moreover, a partner or supervising lawyer is in a position of authority over the work of other lawyers and the partner or supervising lawyer may be disciplined for permitting another lawyer to violate these rules. 2. Rule 5.01(b) likewise is concerned with the lawyer who is in a position of authority over another lawyer and who knows that the other lawyer has committed a violation of a rule of professional conduct. A partner in a law firm, the general counsel of a government agency's legal department, or a lawyer having direct supervisory authority over specific legal work by another lawyer, occupies the position of authority contemplated by Rule 5.01(b). 3. Whether a lawyer has “direct supervisory authority over the other lawyer” in particular circumstances is a question of fact. In some instances, a senior associate may be a supervising attorney. 4. The duty imposed upon the partner or other authoritative lawyer by Rule 5.01(b) is to take reasonable remedial action to avoid or mitigate the consequences of the other lawyer's known violation. Appropriate remedial action by a partner or other supervisory lawyer would depend on many factors, such as the immediacy of the partner's or supervisory lawyer's knowledge and involvement, the nature 78 of the action that can reasonably be expected to avoid or mitigate injurious consequences, and the seriousness of the anticipated consequences. In some circumstances, it may be sufficient for a junior partner to refer the ethical problem directly to a designated senior partner or a management committee. A lawyer supervising a specific legal matter may be required to intervene more directly. For example if a supervising lawyer knows that a supervised lawyer misrepresented a matter to an opposing party in negotiation, the supervisor as well as the other lawyer may be required by Rule 5.01(b) to correct the resulting misapprehension. 5. Thus, neither Rule 5.01(a) nor Rule 5.01(b) visits vicarious disciplinary liability upon the lawyer in a position of authority. Rather, the lawyer in such authoritative position is exposed to discipline only for his or her own knowing actions or failures to act. Whether a lawyer may be liable civilly or criminally for another lawyer's conduct is a question of law beyond the scope of these rules. 6. Wholly aside from the dictates of these rules for discipline, a lawyer in a position of authority in a firm or government agency or over another lawyer should feel a moral compunction to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the office, firm, or agency has in effect appropriate procedural measures giving reasonable assurance that all lawyers in the office conform to these rules. This moral obligation, although not required by these rules, should fall also upon lawyers who have intermediate managerial responsibilities in the law department of an organization or government agency. 7. The measures that should be undertaken to give such reasonable assurance may depend on the structure of the firm or organization and upon the nature of the legal work performed. In a small firm, informal supervision and an occasional admonition ordinarily will suffice. In a large firm, or in practice situations where intensely difficult ethical problems frequently arise, more elaborate procedures may be called for in order to give such assurance. Obviously, the ethical atmosphere of a firm influences the conduct of all of its lawyers. Lawyers may rely also on continuing legal education in professional ethics to guard against unintentional misconduct by members of their firm or organization.   
 Rule 5.03. Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants   With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer: 80 (a) a lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; and (b) a lawyer shall be subject to discipline for the conduct of such a person that would be a violation of these rules if engaged in by a lawyer if: (1) the lawyer orders, encourages, or permits the conduct involved; or (2) the lawyer: (i) is a partner in the law firm in which the person is employed, retained by, or associated with; or is the general counsel of a government agency's legal department in which the person is employed, retained by or associated with; or has direct supervisory authority over such person; and (ii) with knowledge of such misconduct by the non-lawyer knowingly fails to take reasonable remedial action to avoid or mitigate the consequences of that person's misconduct. Comment: 1. Lawyers generally employ assistants in their practice, including secretaries, investigators, law student interns, and paraprofessionals. Such assistants act for the lawyer in rendition of the lawyer's professional services. A lawyer should give such assistants appropriate instruction and supervision concerning the ethical aspects of their employment, particularly regarding the obligation not to disclose information relating to representation of the client, and should be responsible for their work product. The measures employed in supervising non-lawyers should take account of the fact that they do not have legal training and are not subject to professional discipline. 2. Each lawyer in a position of authority in a law firm or in a government agency should make reasonable efforts to ensure that the organization has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the conduct of nonlawyers employed or retained by or associated with the firm or legal department is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer. This ethical obligation includes lawyers having supervisory authority or intermediate managerial responsibilities in the law department of any enterprise or government agency.   
 Rule 8.03. Reporting Professional Misconduct   (a) Except as permitted in paragraphs (c) or (d), a lawyer having knowledge that another lawyer has committed a violation of applicable rules of professional conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate disciplinary authority. (b) Except as permitted in paragraphs (c) or (d), a lawyer having knowledge that a judge has committed a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct that raises a substantial question as to the judge's fitness for office shall inform the appropriate authority. (c) A lawyer having knowledge or suspecting that another lawyer or judge whose conduct the lawyer is required to report pursuant to paragraphs (a) or (b) of this Rule is impaired by chemical dependency on alcohol or drugs or by mental illness may report that person to an approved peer assistance program rather than to an appropriate disciplinary authority. If a lawyer elects that option, the lawyer's report to the approved peer assistance program shall disclose any disciplinary violations that the reporting lawyer would otherwise have to disclose to the authorities referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b). (d) This rule does not require disclosure of knowledge or information otherwise protected as confidential information: (1) by Rule 1.05 or (2) by any statutory or regulatory provisions applicable to the counseling activities of the approved peer assistance program. Comment: 1. Self-regulation of the legal profession requires that members of the profession initiate disciplinary investigations when they have knowledge not protected by Rule 1.05 that a violation of these rules has occurred. Lawyers have a similar obligation with respect to judicial misconduct. Frequently, the existence of a violation cannot be established with certainty until a disciplinary investigation has been undertaken. Similarly, an apparently isolated violation may indicate a pattern of misconduct that only a disciplinary investigation can uncover. Consequently, a lawyer should not fail to report an apparent 114 disciplinary violation merely because he cannot determine its existence or scope with absolute certainty. Reporting a violation is especially important where the victim is unlikely to discover the offense. 2. It should be noted that this Rule describes only those disciplinary violations that must be revealed by the disclosing lawyer in order to avoid violating these rules himself. It is not intended to, nor does it, limit those actual or suspected violations that a lawyer may report. However, if a lawyer were obliged to report every violation of these rules, the failure to report any violation would itself be a professional offense. Such a requirement existed in many jurisdictions but proved to be unenforceable. This Rule limits the reporting obligation to those offenses that a self-regulating profession must vigorously endeavor to prevent. A measure of judgment is, therefore, required in complying with the provisions of this Rule. Similar considerations apply to the reporting of judicial misconduct. The term “substantial” refers to the seriousness of the possible offense and not the quantum of evidence of which the lawyer is aware. The term “fitness” has the meanings ascribed to it in the Terminology provisions of these Rules. 3. A report of professional misconduct by a lawyer should be made and processed in accordance with Article X of the State Bar Rules. A lawyer need not report misconduct where the report would involve a violation of Rule 1.05. However, a lawyer should encourage a client to consent to disclosure where prosecution of the violation would not substantially prejudice the client's interests. Likewise, the duty to report professional misconduct does not apply to a lawyer retained to represent a lawyer whose past professional conduct is in question. Such a situation is governed by the rules applicable to the client-lawyer relationship.   
 
 

May 26, 2017 9:35 PM

No response from City Hall about the threats coming from the Municipal Court.  Obviously the new Council has no regard for the safety of citizens.  Not surprising in the least.

It's one big club, and you ain't in it.

So says George Carlin.  He must have been referring to Amarillo.  When a person in authority or a wealthy white individual, or a person connected to any of the previous two categories commits a crime, complaints go nowhere.  

When the victim of repeated crimes/unethical behavior complains too loudly, they are accused of harassment by the very people who should have investigated the original crime, but refused to do so.

May 26, 2017, 8:27 am

No response from the City of Amarillo regarding the threats coming out of the Municipal Court.  I filed my complaint with the City Attorney, with a copy to the Mayor and each of the Commissioners, the City Manager and City Secretary.  The email was sent at 1:08 pm.

After further thought

I am just now beginning to work through some of the fear I felt as I processed yesterdays threats.  It is a process I have had to become accustomed to in this town.  Threats from authorities are a regular part of life in Amarillo.  Here are a couple of issues I overlooked.

1.  Obviously these threats were delivered on behalf of unnamed judges whether explicitly or implicitly.  

2.  My friend said that the bailiff referred to my web site as propaganda.  My friend asked him if anything on the web site was untrue.  The bailiff had no response.  No one has offered a correction for anything on my web site.  And, by the bailiff's own admission, everything on my web site is being monitored.  If anyone had a correction, they should have contacted me and I would have corrected the error.  Because they have not and they have admitted they have/are reading everything, then they have admitted all of it is true.

3. If some sort of normalcy existed in Amarillo and I raised the concerns I had raised, the concerns would have been investigated.  If something were incorrect on my web site, I have a contact form and I would be contacted and I would correct the post and apologize for the error.  But this is not a normal town.  Instead, I am threatened by a bailiff on behalf of the municipal court, unnamed judges and others.

4.  What scares them so much about a web site that is committed to informing readers?  Why do they feel so threatened by the truth that they have to make threats?

Survellience by the Municipal Court

The is the entry from Merriam-Webster Thesaurus for surveillance:  

 Related Words monitoring, observance, observation, observing, policing;  

So why is the Municipal Court surveilling me?  Do they have a warrant?  In what ways are they surveilling me?  How many people are involved in surveilling me.  Are they surveilling additional friends besides they one that was accosted today by the bailiff at the direction of a court administrator?  They obviously are intent on intimidating friends and delivering threats.  Someone needs to investigate the municipal court.....as I have asked the City Council before.

Note the last synonym.....policing.  That's what we are living under....a police state.

"I know that they put you through hell..."

A couple of months ago, I ran into an attorney who represented me.  He was trying to warm up to me.  He actually made this statement:  "I know they put you through hell, but you're not the only one."

The "they" he was referring to is the APD, the Potter County Court, the Potter County Attorney's office and those they conspired with.

He said this as if I was to take comfort from the fact that I was far from alone.

This came from an attorney that was so scared when the judge threatened me, he looked as if he was going to wet his pants.  Meanwhile, the PROSECUTOR jumped up to defend me against the judge's threats.

But did anyone complain about he judge?  Never.  They are all in on the game.

So the question is, who is monitoring the APD, the Courts and the Prosecutor's office?

In case the answer is not apparent to everyone, the answer is obviously, no one. 

And what happened to me is happening regularly to others....by this attorney's own admission.

Correction

Because truth matters to me, unlike many in positions of authority in this community, I am making the following correction: 

 The friend who was chosen to deliver the threat to me by the municipal court (via the bailiff) told my friend that I had been harassing judges, not that I had been threatening judges.  I made that correction to the city attorney.  

So how many people ARE monitoring me?  Why is the bailiff in on this "monitoring?"  

Complaint filed.

I just filed a complaint with the City Attorney for the threats delivered on behalf of the Municipal Court by the bailiff.  

This court is run by former Potter County Prosecutor Sonya Letson.  Her protege, Scott Brumley, now runs the office.  Scott Brumley recently hired Sonya Letson's husband.  As I stated, I have already been informed by the Potter County Attorney's office that I have been monitored for years.  

The municipal court adjoins the police department (a problem to be discussed at a later time).  The bailiff may or may not have connections to the police department.  So these threats carry the weight of the Municipal Department, the Potter County Attorney's office, possibly the police department and others behind them.  

I have previously and repeatedly raised these issues with authorities, to no avail.  And now I am being threatened once again.

Threats by the Municipal Court, 0525/17

I just filed a complaint with the City Attorney for the threats delivered on behalf of the Municipal Court by the bailiff.  

This court is run by former Potter County Prosecutor Sonya Letson.  Her protege, Scott Brumley, now runs the office.  Scott Brumley recently hired Sonya Letson's husband.  As I stated, I have already been informed by the Potter County Attorney's office that I have been monitored for years.  

The municipal court adjoins the police department (a problem to be discussed at a later time).  The bailiff may or may not have connections to the police department.  So these threats carry the weight of the Municipal Department, the Potter County Attorney's office, possibly the police department and others behind them.  

I have previously and repeatedly raised these issues with authorities, to no avail.  And now I am being threatened once again.

State-sponsored Media

Apparently only State-sponsored media who agrees to stick with pre-approved talking points is deserving of a response from City Hall.  

On a related note, much of what I'll be publishing in the near future is already widely known in the media.  They have refused to publish it.

Here is just one of countless examples.  Someone with inside knowledge of payoffs to Commissioners (as the council was once known) told me that they went to AGN with the story.  The AGN turned them away and the story was never made public.

May 21, 2017 7:00pm If past history is any indication...

The powers that be are conspiring, at this moment, with their lackey Les Simpson on how to discredit me.  Rather than confront the issue, they will attack.  It's happened in the past.  We shall see.

Is Mayor Nelson an Investor in the Hotel?

May 21, 2017

Newly elected Mayor Ginger Nelson has refused repeated requests from www.amarilloexposed to answer rumors that she is an investor in the downtown hotel. 

 In an exchange with City Attorney Mick McKamie, Mr. McKamie also refused to address questions about the Mayor's involvement.  The questions were  submitted along with a list of other questions mostly centered around downtown development. 

 Likewise, no response has been received to an email sent on Friday to McCartt & Associates with a request seeking comment from Joe Bob McCartt on this and related issues. 

Mayor Nelson, along with her husband Kevin, own the Amarillo Building downtown and were investors in a group headed by Joe Bob McCartt that purchased and then resold the Chase Tower, according to published reports. Joe Bob McCartt admitted he was an investor in the downtown convention center hotel after information was inadvertently revealed by the franchise.

At the time of the announcement that the Chase Tower was for sale, Joe Bob McCartt was reported to have stated that the group had other ideas for downtown development.  It is not know if one of those ideas was for a convention center hotel.

 The lack of responsiveness raises questions regarding transparency, especially given the controversy which has dogged our newly-elected Mayor after her time on the Board of the Amarillo Economic Development Council, including a reported FBI investigation of the transaction between the AEDC and her business partner in the Chase Tower and fellow attorney, Alan Rhodes.  Alan Rhodes is an attorney at Underwood Law Firm, the same firm that now employs former City Attorney Marcus Norris.

There was also a massive amount of money spent on this election by Amarillo Matters, a mysterious group that claims to be a grassroots organization in election mailers.  However Amarillo Matters web site has very little information about who is behind the group.  It is not clear if the claims that Amarillo Matters is a grassroots organization are truthful, or if the tagline is just a marketing ploy. The secretive group's slate of candidates all received substantial amounts of donations from Amarillo Matters and were all subsequently elected to office.

The latest potentially explosive revelations follow a long history of accusations of deception, secrecy, and misuse of taxpayer resources that have plagued downtown development from the outset and would seem to only add more credence to opponents suggestions of massive conflicts of interest.