72.1 F
Fort Worth
Thursday, November 26, 2020
Government Water district hires lawyer to boost transparency

Water district hires lawyer to boost transparency

Other News

Exxon’s oil slick

Exxon Mobil is slashing its capital spending budget for 2020 by 30% due to weak demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a market...

Folk music’s Mark Twain: 7 Essential tracks from John Prine,

NEW YORK (AP) — Some people, the songs just come out of them. For nearly half a century, they tumbled out of John Prine...

Tarrant County records another COVID-19 death

Tarrant County Public Health (TCPH) on Wednesday, April 8 reported that a resident of Euless has died as the result of the COVID-19 virus....

Tradition stymied: A year unlike any since WWII for Augusta

The Masters is so intertwined with Augusta, they added an extra day to spring break.You see, the first full week of April isn't just...
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

Ross Fischer 


By Jack Z. Smith Special Projects Reporter The Tarrant Regional Water District, frequently criticized for being insufficiently open and transparent in its operations, has employed an Austin attorney to help it deal with the issue and assess its compliance with state law regarding public disclosure. TRWD General Manager Jim Oliver told water district board members at their meeting Tuesday that he has hired Ross Fischer, former chairman of the Texas Ethics Commission, to help the water district handle a barrage of “very extensive open records requests” and ensure that the agency is adhering to state requirements. “We feel it’s time to bring on … an expert in this field,” Oliver said.

He told the Fort Worth Business Press that Fischer’s hiring did not require a board vote because he will be paid on an hourly basis as an outside attorney assisting with legal work performed for the district by the Fort Worth law firm of Pope, Hardwicke, Christie, Schell, Kelly & Ray. Fischer will be paid $350 per hour for his services, according to TRWD officials.  Oliver said the TRWD this year has received “125 very extensive open-records requests” that have been extremely time-consuming and cost the district an estimated $223,000 in staff time.

Asked to comment on the hiring of Fischer, new water board member Mary Kelleher said, “I think he would be great.” Kelleher was the top vote-getter in a heated board election earlier this year and has criticized what she considers the district’s lack of transparency. She had a heated confrontation with Oliver in June over her requests for information about district activities. Board President Vic Henderson, in a written statement that he read to the board, said: “It is important that we have an independent and recognized open-government expert … to review our public information process” and “assess our ethical behavior.” By retaining a well-regarded expert such as Fischer to assess the agency’s performance in terms of meeting public-disclosure requirements and ethical standards, Henderson said, “we can deal in facts rather than innuendo.”

Henderson said he is “confident” that the district is “not only handling the growing number of public information requests properly and promptly, but that we actually are going beyond state law to fulfill these requests. ” The district is challenging a lawsuit filed by wealthy Dallas businessman Monty Bennett, who claims the water district has violated state open meetings law and attempted to minimize public scrutiny of the water board’s decision-making process. Bennett opposes the joint effort of the TRWD and Dallas Water Utilities to run a large water pipeline under his ranch property in East Texas as part of the $2.3 billion Integrated Pipeline Project designed to boost future water supplies for North Central Texas. The TRWD has in recent months taken various actions to make its operations more open to the public, including live-streaming video of board meetings and posting videos of past board meetings on its website.

The water district is a major supplier of raw water to Tarrant County and surrounding counties. The district also operates four reservoirs, maintains a 27-mile levee system that thwarts flooding from the Trinity River and is playing a key role in the $909.9 million Trinity Uptown flood control and economic development project in Fort Worth. The district gets the bulk of its revenues from water sales, but also levies a two-cent property tax rate and has received substantial income from natural gas and oil royalties and lease bonuses, primarily as a result of the Barnett Shale play in North Texas.  


Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Latest News

JRB Fort Worth chosen for main operating base for C-130J aircraft

Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth has been selected as a main operating base for eight C-130J aircraft at the 136th Airlift...

Tarrant County DA’s office changing how it handles misdemeanor marijuna cases

The Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office is changing how it handles misdemeanor marijuana cases. The Tarrant County  Criminal District Attorney’s Office on Monday, Nov....

Arlington selects new police chief from Baltimore department

Col. Al Jones, a 25-year veteran of the Baltimore County Police Department, has been appointed the new police chief of the the City of...

GM flips to California’s side in pollution fight with Trump

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors says it will no longer support the Trump administration in legal efforts to end California’s right to set its...

Fort Worth out of running for Space Command HQ, San Antonio still in

A Texas city could still host the U.S. Space Command headquarters, but it’s not going to be Fort Worth. The U.S. Air Force has narrowed...