A heated public comment period on Tuesday afternoon led to discussions about alleged conflicts of interest.
On Tuesday, during the Amarillo City Council meeting’s public comment period, resident Mike Fisher got into an exchange with Mayor Ginger Nelson over business interests. Fisher made a comment toward Nelson about hotel development, which started the first exchange.
“When you keep pushing these hotels, I bet you laugh everyday when you talk to your former employer/AEDC attorney/partner in hotels you own,” Fisher said to Nelson.
Nelson then told Fisher to return to City policy and procedure, to which Fisher replied, “this is City business.”
Fisher’s comments were in regards to KAMP Hotels, LLC. Nelson filed a personal financial statement with the City in 2017, declaring herself and her husband, Thomas Kevin Nelson, as co-owners of the company. Bloomberg.com lists Kevin Nelson as a co-founder of the company with another local attorney. The main office for the hotel company is also listed at the same address and in the same office as Nelson’s personal law practice, the Law Offices of Nelson & Nelson. The company owns a hotel at 2208 Cinema Drive, according to appraisal district records. That hotel is listed by Google Maps as the MyPlace Hotel in Amarillo.
“I don’t see how this is City business,” Nelson replied to Fisher.
“I’m talking about this,” Fisher replied.
Fisher then turned his attention to Councilman Eddy Sauer, who at one point during the exchange with Nelson said “no” into the microphone. When Fisher said he had comments for Sauer, both Nelson and the Councilman quickly attempted to redirect the conversation.
“No, we’re not going to do this,” Nelson said. “This is not City business, you are engaging in a personal attack.”
“This is City business,” Fisher replied. “This guy owns a business that you gave a $250,000 tax rebate to. That’s City business.”
Sauer then replied, and attempted to clarify Fisher’s statements.
“That’s actually an incorrect statement,” Sauer said. “I don’t own a business that has gotten anything from Downtown Amarillo. There is a restaurant going in that building that I am a part of.”
The project to which Sauer and Fisher were referring is located at 621 South Polk Street. The project, developed by Dubs Development, LLC, was for a restaurant building that houses Six Car Pub & Brewery and the Crush Wine Bar. City Councilmembers gave a tax break to Dubs Development earlier this year for the project in a 4-0-1 vote, with Sauer abstaining. Center City Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Board members recommended approval of the tax deal in a unanimous vote in January.
In an interview with the Amarillo Globe-News in January, Amarillo National Bank’s Tol Ware, one of the owners of the development company, said Dubs had not originally planned to apply for the tax deal, but decided to after seeing other companies receiving TIRZ deals from the City Council.
“We didn’t anticipate applying for this program during construction until recently,” Ware told the AGN. “We didn’t want to use any government dollars but the more we looked at it ... we learned about the rest of the people on the block using TIRZ money, so we applied.”
According to personal financial statements filed with the City of Amarillo, in 2017, Sauer did not disclose ownership in any restaurant or land entities, other than a residential property in Randall County. Sauer did report that his wife received income through the sale of Maxey’s Steakhouse in Wheeler. That income came through the Wanda S. Herd Irrevocable Trust and netted over $25,000, according to the financial report.
Sauer’s only business interests were through Shemen Dental Group, Dr. Edward Sauer, DDS, and More Sweet Than Sauer, FLP. None of the three entities are listed as dealing in land or restaurants.
At one point during the exchange between Sauer and Fisher, Nelson attempted to stop the exchange from taking place.
“No,” Nelson said. “We’re not going to engage.”
However, Nelson did ask Fisher to leave the podium following the exchange with Sauer.
“That’s your time, Mr. Fisher,” Nelson said. “Thank you.”
Public comment is held at noon, prior to the week’s City Council meetings on Tuesdays. For more information, please visit amarillo.gov.