Water board seeks legal advice on expired terms

Marice Richter mrichter@bizpress.net

The Tarrant Regional Water District Board hired Austin attorney Ross Fischer Tuesday to advise the board on how best to fill the expiring terms of two board members.

The terms of Marty Leonard and Jim Lane were the source of a contentious legal battle in both state and federal court that ended last month when the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the water district was not obligated to hold an election in 2014 to fill the seats.

The Texas Legislature moved TRWD elections from an even-year to odd-year cycle but the legislation sponsored by State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, failed to address the terms of Lane and Leonard. The two members were elected in 2010 and would have been up for re-election this year if not for Geren’s legislation.

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Critics of the TRWD brought the lawsuits in the hopes of forcing an election. The 5th Circuit judges made no ruling on the terms of Lane and Leonard, leaving it up to the state to decide.

“When their terms end, Texas state law will control the question of how the director positions will be filled and any related issues,” the judges ruled.

Fischer, who has served as adviser to the TRWD on several ethics issues, will provide “independent legal advice” on the best pathway to filling the seats, said TRWD attorney Lee Christie.

Most recently, Fischer crafted a resolution adopted by the TRWD board to censure board member Mary Kelleher, a frequent critic of the water district’s leadership and a supporter of more transparency in the organization.

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Kelleher did not attend Tuesday’s meeting. She did not cite a reason for her absence, her first since being elected to the board a year ago. Fischer said the issue of the expired terms should be resolved “within 60 to 90 days,” but could be decided sooner. He told board members that he would report back to them next month.

Besides the board seats, Fischer is also conducting an audit of candidate paperwork filings, financial reporting and PAC contribution disclosures.

In other business, officials reported that TRWD reservoir dams in the vicinity of gas drilling sites are carefully monitored and are sturdy enough to withstand “low-energy” earthquakes such the series of about 30 quakes that occurred between November and February in the Azle area near Eagle Mountain Lake.


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