Ethics case against water district candidates proceeds

Posted Thursday, Nov. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The Texas Ethics Commission is proceeding with an investigation into campaign contributions made during May’s Tarrant Regional Water District board election, according to a letter from the commission.

Azle businessman Jerry Jenkins filed complaints Sept. 30 alleging that contributions totaling $125,000 to a political action committee from Dallas businessman and rancher Monty Bennett were improperly reported on campaign forms, with the intent of hiding the donor’s identity.

The funds, the complaints allege, were then distributed to three candidates running for the board as a slate — Mary Kelleher, John Basham and Timothy Nold.

Kelleher won a board seat, but Basham and Nold lost.

Last week, Jenkins said he received a letter from the ethics commission dated Oct. 9. The letter signed by assistant general counsel Nicholas Espinosa said Jenkins’ complaint meets technical requirements and that the ethics commission has jurisdiction over the matter.

But Espinosa also wrote that his letter doesn’t constitute any findings in the case.

Kelleher confirmed this week that she was aware of the letter but declined to elaborate.

Bennett owns a ranch east of Dallas, and has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the water district's effort to build a pipeline across his property to bring water to the DFW metroplex.

In April, separate complaints were filed against each of the then-water district board members —Vic Henderson, Hal Sparks, Jack Stevens, Marty Leonard and Jim Lane — accusing them of using public dollars on a campaign mailer. That case is also still pending.

Fort Worth businessman Adrian Murray said he filed those complaints because he objected to the use of water district funds to pay for a mailed newsletter touting the water district's accomplishments. The mailer was a glossy, 10-page document, he said.

Murray said he supported Basham, Kelleher and Nold but didn't actively work on their campaigns.

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson

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