She is seeking an injunction to reinstate the permit as well as monetary damages for the significant expenses she has already invested in planning the festival.
In its reply, TRWD denied the allegations and claimed governmental immunity for the district and its board members.
The petition, filed in Tarrant County’s 48th Judicial District Court, lays out the facts. Granger, who was employed by TRWD from 2004 until 2021, had helped produce Oktoberfest on behalf of the Trinity River Vision Authority (TRVA) since 2014.
She is also married to former TRVA executive director J.D. Granger and is the daughter-in-law of Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX-12).
In October 2021, Granger expressed her decision to leave employment at TRWD. When she discerned that TRWD did not plan to host an Oktoberfest in 2022, Granger submitted an application to rent “The Shack” for Oktoberfest.
According to the petition, Granger met with TRWD General Manager Dan Buhman and TRWD Director of Operations Darrell Beason to review her application for a permit and for Granger to present a “sponsorship proposal for TRWD’s consideration.”
In exchange for TRWD allowing her to use tables and decor, Granger would include TRWD as a sponsor and provide a post-event contribution to the district’s recreation fund.
TRWD issued the permit to Granger effective March 9, 2022. Granger created a company, Prost Production, to carry out the business of producing Oktoberfest. The permit was signed by appropriate TRWD personnel, including the general counsel Stephen Tatum.
Following the issuance of the permit, Granger began incurring expenses related to the production of Oktoberfest.
On May 10, Buhman called Granger to tell her that, due to concerns about Oktoberfest appearing too much like the one held in 2021, TRWD might rescind her permit. In her years with TRWD, Granger says she does not remember a permit ever being rescinded.
Granger then changed the name, logo, color scheme, and other graphics for the event to try to alleviate this concern.
In emails between Tatum and Granger’s attorney, Greg Jackson, Tatum expressed concern that TRWD might be violating the “Gift Clause” of the Texas Constitution, which prohibits political subdivisions from granting any “thing of value” to any individual, association, or corporation.
Tatum describes the “thing of value” as “profit potential of the event combined with the reputational good will it has created in the community.”
In an effort to reach some kind of compromise, Granger says she was contacted by the president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc. (DFWI) who told her TRWD has suggested DFWI could own Oktoberfest and she would produce it for them.
Jackson pointed out that if Prost Productions can’t receive a “thing of value” from TRWD with the permit to host Oktoberfest, it seems inconsistent that DFWI should be able to.
Granger also raised allegations that members of the board violated the open meetings act by discussing the rescission of the permit outside of a publicly announced meeting.
When asked why only three board members were included in the petition, Jackson said his client believed they were behind a “push against her as political retribution.”
TRWD denies that the board of directors was involved in the permit issuance or rescission in any way.
Jackson expects the next hearing in the case to be July 16.
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Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.