Alleging waste and abuse of taxpayer monies, citizens asked elected members of the Tarrant Regional Water District this week for a forensic audit of the government agency’s finances.
TRWD—and its creation, the Trinity River Vision Authority—have become infamous for their mismanagement and waste of taxpayer monies with a decade-long, billion-dollar real estate redevelopment project disguised as flood control: Panther Island.
A 2019 programmatic review found the project to be a swamp where management avoided transparency and accountability.
During meetings of the TRWD and TRVA this week, citizens protested and called for a forensic audit of the water district.
“For three weeks, I’ve been saying there needs to be a forensic audit of TRWD and TRVA,” Doreen Gieger told TRWD board members Monday. “There is a lot of wasteful and fraudulent spending of taxpayers’ money in these organizations.”
You have paid for work that has not been done, invoices that have been greatly overcharged what the going rate is for the items purchased and installed, inflated labor costs, and jobs that have been divided up into smaller jobs just to qualify for no-bid contracts.
Former Democrat State Rep. Lon Burnam joined the call for the forensic audit, pushing for transparency. “It has not existed for decades in this particular public entity,” he told the board. “We have learned of numerous irregularities in your financials.”
Citizen Darlia Hobbs also wants the audit, but she doesn’t want it done “in-house” or by anyone with connections to TRWD.
Burnam also asked board members to, “like most nonprofit boards, insist on a monthly financial report.”
At Thursday’s meeting of the TRVA board (which consists of representatives from TRWD, Fort Worth, and Tarrant County), citizen Thomas Torlincasi made several allegations.
“In my hand right here are just examples of more than $100,000 of billings, graft, padded invoices, [and] no-bid invoices that ended up being more,” he said, waving a folder containing a stack of papers. “At TRWD offices, it looks like J.D. Granger himself asked for and ordered more than $41,000 for the work that [Panther Island-Central City Flood Project Director of Communications] Matt Oliver said never took place.”
J.D. Granger is the son of Congresswoman Kay Granger (R–TX). From the start, both have been at the center of the Panther Island boondoggle. J.D. Granger was hired to manage it despite having no prior qualifications. He told Texas Scorecard last week he is currently the executive director for the Panther Island–Central City Project, as well as the recreation director.
TRVA board President and Tarrant County Administrator G.K. Maenius asked Torlincasi to provide copies of his evidence.
Texas Scorecard asked TRWD board member James Hill for his response to Torlincasi’s allegations. “I’ll look at it as soon as I can,” he replied. “I’ve heard allegations. As I’ve said, I’ve not seen anything, so I look forward to reviewing and seeing what’s there.”
“If [there are] allegations of malfeasance, they need to be addressed. If it’s illicit or illegal activity, which is what I’ve heard, it needs to be turned over to law enforcement,” he said.
Will There Be A Forensic Audit?
Texas Scorecard asked board members Leah King (who is also board president), Hill, and Mary Kelleher about citizen calls for a forensic audit.
“I don’t have a problem with requesting one at all,” Kelleher replied. “I haven’t seen any of the invoices that people are referring to, but we definitely need to look at [the allegations]. And if this is truly happening, we most definitely need a forensic audit. “
“The citizens have every right to make any kind of request that they would like,” King said. When asked if she thought the board would take action on such a request, King replied, “I don’t know.”
“If there’s enough material and documentation, I would think a forensic audit would be called on by law enforcement, not the civic board itself,” Hill said. When asked about making a motion for an audit, he replied, “I’m still waiting on the information that everybody said that they’d like to show me.”
In March, Fort Worth Councilmember Cary Moon said he’d be “happy” to request a forensic audit of Panther Island, though he said, “You don’t have to do a forensic audit—you can do an audit.” The City of Fort Worth is a stakeholder in the project.
Hobbs, after thanking Kelleher for returning to the TRWD board, asked her for action: “Please make it more transparent, and stop the corruption.”