As the retiring president of the Tarrant Regional Water District’s elected board of directors, I was dismayed to read the Star-Telegram editorial re-election endorsement of Mary Kelleher. (“Keep ‘squeaky wheel’ on water district board,” April 9)
Equally unsettling was the reference to her as TRWD board’s “squeaky wheel” without mentioning on whose behalf she squeaks.
Having tried to work alongside Kelleher for the past four years, I can state with certainty that she has not been a “squeaky wheel” for anyone other than her Dallas benefactor, Monty Bennett.
Bennett, a wealthy Dallas hotelier, has repeatedly attempted to disrupt and take control of our local water board. Why? Because he is upset over a water pipeline that needs to cross under part of a weekend ranch he owns in East Texas.
This pipeline is part of a joint water supply project between TRWD and the City of Dallas that will save taxpayers over $1 billion in construction and operation costs and will bring crucially needed water to our rapidly growing area.
Over the past four years, Kelleher has used her board position to help Bennett hinder, disrupt and delay this important water supply project. In turn, Bennett has rewarded Kelleher by providing her with campaign contributions.
A blatant example of this insider assistance by Kelleher on Bennett’s behalf involved one of his harassment lawsuits against TRWD. Bennett lost on the district court level and appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Unabashedly, Kelleher flew at Bennett’s expense to New Orleans to sit with him during the court proceeding. Bennett lost this case; and to date, every court issuing a final ruling in Bennett’s suits has ruled against his claims.
These claims by Bennett, assisted by Kelleher, have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars.
Bennett has also given close to $100,000 to Kelleher to pay for her legal defense fees related to an ongoing Texas Ethics Commission investigation of her 2013 campaign’s failure to fully disclose its funding sources.
Bennett, too, is under investigation in the same Ethics Commission case for being the likely source of Kelleher’s undisclosed campaign money.
Beyond helping Bennett, Kelleher has also gotten into trouble while serving on the board for not being truthful. In 2014, her false and inappropriate comments before the Fort Worth City Council prompted the water board to formally censure her, making her the only sitting board member in TRWD’s history to be censured.
Casting even more concern over Kelleher, an independent ethics audit ordered by the TRWD board also found that she tampered with one of her required campaign disclosure filing forms by cutting off the form’s “under penalty of perjury” accuracy oath.
Even though the audit noted that the disclosure form’s signed oath was required by state law, Kelleher has still not filed it.
Furthermore, voters should be aware that Kelleher routinely attends board meetings accompanied by political consultants, videographers and PR advisers, all paid for by Bennett, who regularly script Kelleher’s remarks including texting her during the board meetings to make sure her comments are what they want them to be.
Finally, in her current re-election campaign, Kelleher is continuing to manipulate the facts.
Most egregious is her taking false credit for TRWD’s new water quality testing measures, a seismic detection system on our dams and our aquifer storage and recovery studies.
All this work was initiated prior to Kelleher joining the board.
Because it’s important to keep local control of our local water board, we need honest and qualified board members who will be “squeaky wheels” for TRWD’s taxpayers, not for Dallas businessman Monty Bennett or any other outside special interest.
Fortunately, we have three such extremely qualified candidates in the May 6 election. They are Jack Stevens, Leah King and James Hill.
Stevens is a retired engineer, Air Force veteran and the current TRWD board vice president.
King and Hill are two first-time candidates who have impressive community service backgrounds and water knowledge. They would be the right kind of local “squeaky wheels” for protecting our local water supply.
Vic Henderson is board president for the Tarrant Regional Water District, where his term expires after the May 6 election. He is not running for re-election .