This might earn me another scolding from the spouse of an elected official, but it needs to be said. Plain and simple, Mayor Ginger Nelson should have abstained from the Amarillo City Council’s vote today to purchase a warehouse downtown for $700,000.
On Tuesday, Nelson joined a unanimous City Council in voting to purchase a warehouse across the street from the Amarillo Civic Center at a cost of $700,000 plus additional inspection and closing fees. The property is owned by 701 SE 5th LLC, with Joe Bob McCartt’s McCartt & Associates listed as the real estate company involved with the property listing.
Nelson was accused of having a conflict of interest during the public comment prior to the meeting. During that time she said she was “putting [a citizen] on notice.” After public comment, Nelson addressed the vote head-on, saying neither she or her husband, Kevin, have any ownership in the building, and she refused to abstain.
Regardless, of whether there was a “legal reason,” in Nelson’s words for her to abstain, she should have abstained as a show of good faith toward citizens. I have seen nothing that leads me to believe Nelson has ownership in the warehouse, but it appears her husband has been a business partner with McCartt, in the exact same entity involved with this transaction - McCartt & Associates, according to a 2006 press release. It would be helpful to note though that, according to appraisal records, McCartt & Associates is not the owner of the property, but, as recently as Friday, had the property listed as available through its website.
Now, in saying all of this, it is interesting Nelson said she did not want to set a “precedent” by abstaining from this vote. Actually, an elected official voting against more spending is something that would be a good precedent, but Nelson has never been one to vote in a way that takes into account proper use of tax dollars.
I would like to point out though that there is already a precedent for an elected official being cautious and electing against voting on a project where there is an alleged conflict of interest. In fact, it happened on the exact same City Council where Nelson is currently mayor.
Councilman Eddy Sauer abstained from a vote to provide a tax deal to Dubs Development for a downtown restaurant. In that vote, Sauer later said at a City Council meeting that he did not have any interest in the project for which the tax deal was given, but had interest in a restaurant that would become a tenant of the property.
If the issue to Nelson is just the topic of ownership, there is already a precedent. That precedent comes by way of a Councilman who Nelson campaigned with in 2017, and has worked with throughout her nearly two years on the City Council.
With this precedent in mind, this leads me to feel that this vote was not about choosing not to set a “precedent,” as Nelson said. In the opinion of this writer, today’s vote was simply about bucking the citizens who oppose the mayor’s agenda.
It feels very disingenuous for Mayor Nelson to talk about avoiding being drawn into making political decisions, when her whole term has seen the City Council doing whatever benefits them politically.
Amarillo deserves better, Mayor Nelson.
-Thomas Warren III, Editor-in-Chief