August 20, 2014

Latest episode of Tarrant Regional Water District soap opera is disappointing

Political agendas dominate meetings and continue to distract.

The regular meetings of the Tarrant Regional Water District have devolved into a soap opera, complete with petty bickering and personality conflicts that have become major distractions for a board once considered peaceful to the point of being dull.

Again this week the continuing saga of whether two board members are legally qualified to serve was at the center of attention, along with campaign finance issues of two board candidates and a nonprofit group headed by one of them.

Because TRWD changed its elections to odd-number years beginning in 2013, the terms of incumbents Jim Lane and Marty Leonard, which expired this past May, were extended for a year until 2015.

The newest board member, Mary Kelleher, supported by the water district’s chief antagonist, John Basham, refused to attend four board meetings, insisting that an election be called this year or that Lane and Leonard be appointed to continue serving.

Two courts have said that no election is required, and Tuesday a lawyer hired by the board said no appointments were necessary because no vacancy had occurred.

Attorney Ross Fischer, former chairman of the Texas Ethics Commission, cited the Texas Election Code, the Water Code and a letter from the Justice Department granting permission for TRWD to move the elections of three board members from 2012 to 2013.

The attorney’s report also said that Basham, a thrice-defeated candidate supported by the same wealthy landowner as Kelleher, had not filed nine required campaign finance reports since 2010 and that Kelleher’s finance report of July 13 did not contain a notary stamp.

Because the board meetings have become political staging grounds, things are not expected to quiet down anytime soon, certainly not before next May’s elections. The disruptions, like Kelleher calling for inclusion of an agenda item to request the resignation of General Manager Jim Oliver, are part of that political positioning.

Candidates, and certainly sitting board members, should file campaign financial statements as required by law.

Meanwhile, the public should be prepared for continuing drama.

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