The Tarrant Regional Water District board on Tuesday approved a new governing policy to improve management practices, including prohibiting nepotism within its leadership ranks.
Some board members have long pushed for more transparency and reform of the district’s management practices, but the matter gained more urgency after board members became aware of a $323,294 payment that former board President Jack Stevens had unilaterally authorized as unpaid leave for former General Manager Jim Oliver.
Board member revoked the payment but then recently settled with Oliver, who had threatened to sue over the board’s decision to revoke the payment and being shuttled aside as a result of age discrimination.
Shortly after the board approved the new governing rules, the resignation of Shanna Cate Granger, a manager in the district, became public. She is the wife of J.D. Granger, who directs the Panther Island/ Central City Flood Control Project, which is under TRWD management.
J.D. Granger told the Fort Worth Business Press that his wife’s resignation is not connected to the new governance rules.
“That had absolutely zero connection,” Granger said of the two events. He did not elaborate.
“After 17 years, Ms. Granger has announced that her last day at the District will be November 19, 2021,” said TRWD spokesman Chad Lorance. “TRWD is grateful for her leadership in developing and executing numerous events through the years, and furthering our mission of enhancing the quality of life in the communities we serve. The District is currently developing a transition plan that will allow us to continue to put on these outstanding events in a way that meets the high standards the public has come to expect from TRWD.”
Two years ago, the board of the Trinity River Vision Authority, the subsidiary of TRWD that oversees Panther Island project, removed J.D. Granger as executive director of the TRVA and shifted him into a downgraded role, reporting to Oliver.
The move was among the recommendations of a consultant’s comprehensive review to help improve the optics of the TRVA to attract federal funds for the $1.17 billion Panther Island project.
J.D. Granger is the son of U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, who is the founder and champion of the flood control and economic development project.
Prior to that shift, Shanna Cate Granger’s duties were shifted from the TRVA to the TRWD when she married J.D. Granger.
Oliver family members also work for the district and his girlfriend, now his wife, was also employed by the TRWD.
Among other changes to the governance policy, the new rules rein in the role of the board president and prohibit individual board members from exerting authority over the district.
A complaint over a settlement between the TRWD and Oliver prompted a complaint to Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson, which she turned over to be investigated by a county grand jury.
As a result of the settlement, Oliver will receive $161,674.20. Additionally, he will be paid for 580.99 hours o remaining leave for a total of $90,303.23 plus $5,371 from a 401K contribution from the district. The total compensation is $257,000
The Water District Accountability Project, a grassroots citizens group dedicated to improving transparency in the water district, supports the new governance policy but continues to push for expanded opportunities for public comment and a forensic audit, which could identify evidence malfeasance or fraud within the TRWD.
“This is a great victory day for progress,” said Lon Burnam, founder of the advocacy group.