Local NewsTarrant Water District Board Votes for Settlement With Former General Manager

After rescinding an additional $300,000 payment to Oliver in June, the Water District Board has now voted to offer him a legal settlement but the terms can not be revealed for at least seven days.
September 30, 2021
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The Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) held a specially-called board meeting on Wednesday, September 29 and voted 4 to 1 for a settlement agreement to “resolve employment issues regarding former general manager Jim Oliver.” Board member Mary Kelleher opposed the agreement.

The primary discussion of the proposed agreement was held in an extended executive session as allowed by the Texas Open Meetings Act. 

Carlos Lopez, attorney to TRWD from the law firm Thompson & Horton, explained that due to the nature of some of the age discrimination claims asserted by Oliver, there is an automatic seven-day rescission period triggered during which the former employee can revoke his signature.  

Because of that, the terms of the agreement can not be made public until after the rescission period ends, Lopez added, but after that they are public records.

Oliver threatened legal action after a $300,000 payment for unpaid leave was rescinded on June 29. The payment had been unilaterally authorized by former board president Jack Stevens. 

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Current President Leah King said at the meeting that the decision to revoke the unpaid leave payment was not being reconsidered. 

However, the Water District Accountability Project (WDAP), a group calling for greater accountability and transparency from TRWD, has concerns about a settlement agreement with Oliver. 

Several members of WDAP spoke during the public comment period at the meeting, opposing an agreement that they called “hush money.”

WDAP volunteer Doreen Geiger raised concerns that public funds were being used to pay an employee after a public service had been rendered in violation of the Texas Constitution, Article III, sections 44 and 53

Retired attorney Jackee Cox asked the board to “have the courage to stand by your convictions” and not pay the settlement. 

Former Democratic state representative Lon Burnam told The Texan that the group is considering possible legal action after the terms of the settlement are made public.

WDAP continues to call for a forensic audit of TRWD. “This coalition is coming together to demand accountability. This is not a left or right political issue—this is a right or wrong issue,” Burnam said.

One of TRWD’s responsibilities is to oversee the embattled Panther Island Central City Flood Control Project, which has been at a stalemate and without federal funding for over two years.

Emails by Oliver to the TRWD board at the end of May, and recently obtained by Fort Worth Report, contained criticism about the handling of Panther Island. 

In the emails, he blamed former Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price for creating doubt about the management of the project by demanding an audit, which was “used as justification by the OMB (Office of Budget and Management) to kill USACE (Army Corps of Engineers) recommended funding for the project for the next few years.”

The review completed by third-party consultant Riveron found problems with the project’s financial management, governance, and transparency and recommended significant changes. It also determined that the project is now likely to cost over $1 billion.

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a 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.

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