Tag Archives: Potter County

This lawsuit might have legs

There was something quite unsurprising the other day about news that the family of a deceased Potter County commissioner had filed a wrongful death suit against the Amarillo hospital that cared for him.

Precinct 2 County Commissioner Manny Perez died in October 2011 after what was thought to be a fairly “routine” surgical procedure on his neck. Perez’s death stunned the community and I heard from more than one individual who questioned the circumstances of his passing.

I’ll need to stipulate that I have no inside knowledge of this case. It just strikes me as not surprising that Perez’s family would take this action. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess.

The suit, filed in the 108th State District Court, alleges Northwest Texas Hospital employees failed to notify Perez’s surgical team of changes in the commissioner’s medical condition after the surgery. Perez reportedly complained of difficulty swallowing. Perez’s condition worsened and he died several days after the surgery.

My heart, of course, was broken for Perez’s family when he died. I knew Perez quite well from my years covering his service for Potter County. We had our run-ins on occasion over those many years, but we were on good terms when he passed away.

I’ll await the outcome of this case, whether it goes to court or whether the hospital settles it with the family. A lawyer friend of mine with some knowledge of the situation told me the other day he thinks NWTH would be wise to settle. I am not qualified to make such an assertion.

I do believe I am qualified, though, to declare my lack of surprise that Manny Perez’s family would sue the hospital.

Let’s all stay tuned.

City ponders rail depot purchase

As a big supporter of Amarillo’s effort to revive its downtown district, I am intrigued by the city’s consideration of purchasing the Santa Fe Depot across the street from the Civic Center.

The City Commission will consider this purchase at its next meeting, on Tuesday. The city might plunk down $2.6 million for the deal.

Then what? That’s the big question.


I was most intrigued by the quotes attributed to City Commissioner Lilia Escajeda, who seems to be suggesting something different from her colleagues. Commissioner Ellen Green noted the building’s historical significance and said that Amtrak might want to use the depot to bring passenger train service back to Amarillo.

Escajeda, though, said the depot’s purchase would make it easier for the city expand its Civic Center in the future. Is she suggesting the city could, um, knock down the depot — since it might own the property — to make room for a Civic Center expansion? I hope that’s not what she’s saying.

My own sense is that the city purchasing the depot has the potential for contributing to a successful downtown revival. My hope would be for the city to pull out all the stops to find a suitable — and successful — tenant who could put the building to the kind of use that would attract visitors to the downtown district.

Who or what would that entail? Well, I’m not a commercial real estate marketing genius, so I’ll leave that discussion to the experts. What’s more, the city has no shortage of resources to find someone who knows something about marketing buildings such as the Santa Fe Depot.

The building is beautiful and has at least as much potential as the “other” Santa Fe Building downtown, the one that Potter County transformed from a rotting hulk into a glorious office structure.

Go for it, City Hall.

Dear Judge Ware: Please explain this firing

Texas is an “at will” state, meaning that employers can fire employees for any reason, or for no reason. They concoct reasons for terminating employees.

That appears to be the case involving a long-standing Potter County administrative assistant and her boss, the county judge.

The judge is Arthur Ware. The administrative assistant is Nancy Tanner. Ware suffered a serious stroke in 2010. He’s been unable to communicate effectively ever since. Technically, he’s been on the job but much of the work that entails actually talking to constituents – such as probate hearings – has been farmed out to other county officials.

Nancy Tanner has indicated a desire to succeed Ware as county judge in 2014. She has announced her intention to consider running for the office. Tanner sent a letter to friends and supporters throughout the community recently expressing that desire. In the letter, she said that because of his physical condition, Ware “probably” won’t seek re-election next year. Tanner’s letter, though, mostly extolled her own qualifications, of which there are plenty. She knows the probate process inside and out; she’s been handling court administration for more than two decades. What’s more, she’s been a loyal aide to Judge Ware and professes to this day that she maintains great respect and affection for him.

The letter went out. And then, quite suddenly about two weeks ago, Ware informed Tanner that he is firing her. Hit the road, he said in effect.

OK, so what’s going on here? Tanner believes politics played a part in her dismissal. Ware isn’t saying anything about it. Some of his Commissioners Court colleagues are asking for a clarification – which they are correct to do.

State law doesn’t require Arthur Ware to give a single reason for making a personnel-related decision. So it appears he’s going to rest on that law, go about his business and perhaps hope the tempest subsides.

I don’t think it should until Ware explains why he dismissed his trusted administrative assistant who has declared her desire to succeed him.

The county has been roiled by controversy before. This won’t be the last time. But the man at the center of this story needs to tell his constituents of his plans. Will he seek re-election or not? Was Tanner’s summary firing related to the letter she sent out? Did it have anything to do with the presumption she made about whether he would run again? A full and detailed accounting of what happened is in order.

Nancy Tanner deserved better than what she got. What is done is done. Just because the law protects an elected official from having to explain himself doesn’t make it right for him to stonewall the public.

Talk to your bosses, Judge Ware – the people you serve as county judge.