Amarillo mayor responds to letter claiming 'abuse of power'

Amarillo mayor responds to letter claiming 'abuse of power'
Published: Apr. 13, 2018 at 8:04 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 14, 2018 at 5:33 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - State Representative Tony Tinderholt has penned a letter to Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson, claiming she abused her power during a city council meeting earlier this month.

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The letter addresses the arrest of Kip Billups for clapping during the public comment period on April 3.

The Tarrant County representative is calling on Mayor Nelson and the Amarillo City Council to reconsider the decorum policies he believes reduce expression.

In the letter, Rep. Tinderholt said he believes the arrest of Billups for clapping causes "grave concerns for the constitutional protections guaranteed to the public."

Rep. Tinderholt sits on the Government Transparency and Operation Committee and plans to ask his fellow committee members to look into the matter to determine if the city's decorum policies violate the Texas Open Meetings Act.

He said he will also explore the idea of whether legislation needs to be filed to prevent so-called "clapping policies" in local government meetings.

However, Mayor Nelson stands by the city's decorum policies during the public comment portion of city council.

"We try very hard to create an environment and an atmosphere full of respect where there is no intimidation," said Nelson. "It can be intimidating for someone to clap so loudly that someone who has a point of view that disagrees with that clapping might not want to come to the podium to give their opposing point of view. But that's our one chance as elected officials to hear that opposing point of view."

Nelson said she wants Amarilloans to know who is behind this letter.

"The letter that was written, I really think it was a publicity stunt," said Nelson. "That representative didn't send it directly to me. He didn't call me. So here he is, a representative in the Dallas-metroplex area, inserting himself into this situation in Amarillo where he doesn't know the context and he has mischaracterized what actually happened. He's tied to a group called Empower Texans, which is a downstate political action committee. They tried to insert themselves into our local elections here in Sen. Kel Seliger's race and Rep. Four Price's race with false accusations and misrepresenting who they are and what they are about. We are true conservatives here in our community. We can vote for ourselves for the things we want and we need to be able to do that without outside influences trying to skew or create chaos."

You can watch the full interview with Mayor Nelson below:

Following the interview on Friday, Rep. Tinderholt provided a statement to Madison Alewel on Facebook, contradicting certain statements Mayor Nelson made.

He said in a Facebook comment, "I am the state representative who sent the letter to the mayor. Let me be clear and please don't delete this ..... the people deserve to read both sides.

1. I emailed and mailed (original document) the mayor a copy 28 hours prior to an official media release. This directly contradicts her statements on some media outlet interviews.

2. I saw the video on facebook and also saw an article in the star telegram and was disturbed that an elected official would disregard a persons constitutional rights, those same rights that I fought to defend in the U.S. military for 21 years. Nobody contacted me or told me about this, I ran across it online and was absolutely astounded by what I saw. 

3. To attempt to push this off on a PAC (she blames Empower Texans) is a pathetic attempt to divert attention away from her actions which potentially include violations of the open meetings act by telling people that cannot record city council meetings with their phones, discussing city business when not in a public meeting while failing to post, and by purposefully infringing upon peoples first amendment rights (note that moments prior she encouraged people to clap for one topic and then the next moment she had someone arrested because she potentially has a problem with him personally). Regardless of how frustrated she is with him or a small group of people with whom she disagrees, she cannot say "clap now, but don't clap later when I don't like or don't agree with you".... watch the video from the meeting, it was personal and she was angry.

This behavior should cause serious concern to all Texans. If allowed and nobody intervenes, it will become the norm and may spread across the state. Elected officials work for the people, not the other way around. We dont live under dictatorships which is exactly what this resembles! This is not personal and I respect the mayors selfless service as an elected official. I do not know much about specific Amarillo politics or elections, who is who or what your current agendas are but I do know that people deserve better both legally and morally from an elected official!"

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