TRWD, former general manager reach settlement

A settlement has been struck between the Tarrant Regional Water District and former General Manager Jim Oliver in exchange for Oliver’s agreement to not sue over grievances.

Oliver will receive $161,674.20, according to details of the agreement that were made public on Friday. Additionally, Oliver will be paid for 580.99 hours of his remaining leave for a total of $90,303.23 plus $5,371 from a 401K contribution from the district.

He received more than $257,000 in compensation as a result of the settlement.

TRWD board members recently agreed to settle with Oliver to prevent him from filing a lawsuit, which all board members except Mary Kelleher agreed was preferable to fighting a lengthy and contentious lawsuit. Among his grievances, Oliver leveled accusations of age discrimination.

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According to the settlement agreement, Oliver notified the district that he intended to sue the district and assert “multiple statutory and contractual claims,” including the board’s revocation of 2,080 hours of paid leave that former board President Jack Stevens had planned to give him.

Before Stevens left office after losing his seat in the May 1 election, he directed staff to pay Oliver for the 2,080 extra hours of leave time, worth about $323,294.40, without knowledge or consent of the full TRWD board. When the board learned of the intended payment, members revoked the payment.

According to the agreement, Oliver, 72, decided to retire as general manager and remain on staff for another year as senior advisor to the new general manager but the district “did not accept Oliver’s offer.”

Dan Buhman was hired as the new general manager on July 1 but Oliver and board members did not finalize negotiations on Oliver’s role before the new general manager was hired.

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Oliver stepped down as general manager but did not fully resign his employment at the time. At that time, Oliver had accrued 1,034.82 hours of paid leave and has been using his leave time ever since, according to the agreement.

Oliver has not filed a charge of age discrimination over the end of his tenure and waived his right to claims of age discrimination in this matter.

He also agreed to cooperate with the district and testify in any future litigation arising from his time as general manager.

The newly-formed citizens advocacy group that has protested against a financial settlement with Oliver has not ruled out suing the water district.

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“At the end of the day, the WDAP (Water District Accountability Project) is still exploring our legal options,” said Lon Burnam, founder of the advocacy group.