Questions are being raised regarding Brown & Fortunato’s influence among various taxing entities in Amarillo.
The law firm, which is based out of downtown Amarillo, has ties to multiple local taxing entities, according to records. This includes influence at Amarillo Independent School District, Amarillo College, and the City of Amarillo. The majority of Brown & Fortunato’s influence comes in the form of unelected positions.
Brown & Fortunato’s ties to Amarillo College and Amarillo ISD both come in the form of elected officials. Michele Fortunato currently serves as chairman of the Amarillo College Board of Regents. Fortunato has served on the Amarillo College Board of Regents since 2004. Brown & Fortunato’s influence on the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees comes through John Ben Blanchard. Blanchard won re-election to the office of trustee in 2013.
When it comes to ties with the City of Amarillo, Brown & Fortunato holds more influences. Blanchard has served on the Center City Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, and the Amarillo Hospital District Board of Managers. Fortunato also has served on the Amarillo Parks & Recreation Advisory Board. Richard Brown, another partner at the firm, has served as chairman of the Center City Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, the Amarillo Local Government Corporation and president of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation. During Brown’s tenure on the LGC, the deal for the downtown convention center hotel was brokered by the LGC. Brown also serves on the formerly taxpayer funded Downtown Amarillo, Inc. board.
Brown & Fortunato also has deep ties with Center City. Brown & Fortunato employees who have been or are currently members of the Center City Board of Directors include Allison Davis, Michele Fortunato, Matthew Hand, and Tom Knapp. Richard Brown also served as Center City president in 1994.
With all of these ties to taxing entities, many local residents might be wondering how much influence is too much.