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Downtown Amarillo Inc. continues to fight the public’s right to know what really goes on between Melissa Dailey, its executive director, and Wallace Bajjali, the lawsuit- and bankruptcy-tainted master developer for downtown revitalization.
Several weeks ago, The Amarillo Independent filed a Texas Public Records Act request to review the DAI board’s and Dailey’s emails. The first response about two weeks ago was to use the state sunshine law to assess a $338 fee, claiming costs for researching and fulfilling the request and for copying the pages.
Friday, DAI’s attorney, Chris Pirtle, informed the Independent that DAI has miscalculated the costs and that learning about the taxpayer-funded public’s business would exceed $800. And, as the first time, Pirtle’s letter arrived late on a Friday afternoon.
Maybe people in Amarillo really don’t care that downtown development is going on and that the city has already forked over $947,000 to repay Wallace Bajjali for “pursuit” costs in its misguided $113 million plan for a hotel, garage and (worst of all) baseball stadium. But we can’t think of a more chilling reason for more transparency than the article in Friday’s Washington Post. Had the revelations in that piece been known at the time of the Watergate case, perhaps former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and GOP operative Pat Buchanan could have been charged with criminal conspiracy and aiding and abetting criminal activity. Please, read the Post’s story and don’t discount the implications.
In Amarillo, should the Wallace Bajjali-DAI scheme fail, the implications for taxpayers could be horrendous. That is why the Independent continues fighting your fight for you.
And at the risk of some backlash and sympathy that perhaps we’re picking on Dailey, we point out that she has stopped sending meeting notices to the media. We're not whining about this; we're just pointing out that Dailey will resort to pettiness in the face of scrutiny and criticism.
How much we should lay at her feet, of course, isn’t clear. After all, while she ostensibly works for a board, she really works for Amarillo Globe-News Publisher Les Simpson. Previous emails the Independent reviewed show he provided her day-to-day guidance.
Simpson’s unseemly role on the board, by the way, will continue, even though he has had new responsibilities with Morris Communications, the Georgia-based out-of-town corporatist firm that owns the local paper, according to one of our sources. Simpson has refused to step aside, our source said, even though Morris’ hatchet man for Amarillo will travel more to oversee additional Morris properties.
None of the hiding of information really helps Amarillo realize a dream for a revitalized downtown because it calls the process’s credibility into question. And, it flies in the face of the openness David Wallace promised the community in a one-hour conversation with the Independent a couple of years ago.
We deserve better.