Despite previous claims from district board members, staff and legal counsel, the Tarrant Regional Water District is required by law to make committee meetings open to the public. Until very recently the public was not notified of, or allowed to attend, these meetings. In fact, our first effort to attend a Constructions and Operations Committee meeting in July 2013 was met with outright refusal from district staff.
Administration insisted that the meetings were not open to the public. Furthermore, agendas could not be obtained, even though state law requires them to be posted seventy two hours in advance.
We are unsure as to the number of meetings conducted in private. When we posed the same questions to board chairman, Vic Henderson, he wasn’t able to provide a good explanation. In fact, the board was so concerned with satisfying public inquiry that they changed their meeting policy to specifically prohibit it at future meetings!
If current litigation with TRWD results in a court ruling that the district violated the Texas Open Meetings Act, it’s possible that the decisions made in those meetings could be nullified.
If some or all of the decisions made in violation of the law are invalidated, how much will it cost taxpayers to re-address years of board agenda items? And just as importantly, will the board explain how secret meetings came to be the TRWD’s official policy?
I’m convinced these questions will fall on deaf ears. After all, the newly elected Mary Kelleher is the only board member pushing for transparency on behalf of taxpayers.
For readers skeptical as to the extent of the board’s alleged shenanigans, keep in mind that TRWD is one of six taxing districts in Tarrant County contributing taxpayer money to TRWD’s subsidiary; the Trinity River Vision Authority.
The TRWD insists the TRVA’s focus is flood mitigation. Skeptics who’ve taken five minutes to visit TRV’s website, however, can clearly see that it’s a $1 billion economic development scheme.
We are scratching our heads trying to figure out why, in a state with a supposed ‘water shortage’, millions of taxpayer dollars are being wasted on ‘economic development’, especially by an obscure district chartered with raw water production and flood mitigation?
Perhaps it’s because officials thought that such a district was unlikely to draw much scrutiny from the public. They were wrong.