Bud Kennedy

April 29, 2014

Was this Tarrant water board meeting necessary?

Tarrant Regional Water District directors censure a new board member, but it doesn’t mean much.

The regional water agency is making enemies when it needs friends.

Under all-out legal and political assault by a maverick Dallas millionaire who wants to shut down a Dallas-Fort Worth pipeline project through his ranch, the Tarrant Regional Water District needs to enlist more local support.

Instead, directors now also have a prominent Fort Worth Democrat upset about the agency’s response — more often, resistance — to records requests.

State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, filed his own request this week, along with a letter expressing concern over a breach of the “public trust.”

“It is completely unacceptable for TRWD to withhold documents,” he wrote, ending his letter, “… government-in-secret has no place in Texas.”

Burnam said he isn’t siding with the Dallas millionaire, hotel executive and Henderson County rancher Monty Bennett.

Burnam said he and other Democrats are simply concerned that the board isn’t responsive enough about public meetings and records.

Lots of us have said that the last few months.

Yet instead of mounting a new effort to open more files and respond to requests, President Vic Henderson and directors spent time Tuesday voting to “censure” a new director.

Director Mary Kelleher of Fort Worth was the only woman among seven candidates in last year’s board election. With the help of more than $200,000 in donations from Dallas businessmen with land near the pipeline project, she led all candidates in an election where voters are usually about 55 percent women.

Since then, as expected, she has mostly resisted the board majority.

Henderson blamed her for much more, calling for her censure because of what he said were conflicts of interest with Bennett, a breach of confidentiality in lawsuits and misrepresentations in a presentation to City Council.

Directors Marty Leonard of Fort Worth and Jack Stevens of Azle voted with Henderson for censure. Wisely, Director Jim Lane abstained.

Lane joined the three to support a second, more important resolution hiring a lawyer for a review of campaign finance reports to ensure transparency.

Basically, a censure motion means nothing. It’s an empty public rebuke, sort of a pinstriped version of kindergarteners holding their noses and pointing.

Much of the behavior Tuesday resembled kindergarten, not only by directors but also by a boorish and jeering crowd of Kelleher supporters led by state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford.

Watch it yourself at vc.trwd.com.

Then tell both sides to get back to work.

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