New Tarrant Regional Water District Board Member Wants An End To Secrecy
A first-time candidate elected to the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) board plans to shake things up.
Mary Kelleher says she wants the board to be less secretive about its business.
Mary Kelleher, 50, a Tarrant County Juvenile Court supervisor, was the only winner among a slate of three challengers who wanted to replace long-time incumbents and take control of the water board.
Kelleher says the challengers were concerned about allegations that surfaced in a recent lawsuit. It accuses the district of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act and making multi-million dollar construction decisions behind closed doors.
“There have been allegations of self dealing,” said Kelleher. “I’ve heard of perks. I want to make sure everything is upfront. We can’t do good business if the public doesn’t have confidence in us.”
Kelleher and the other challengers received more than $200,000 in campaign donations from ranchers who want to stop the construction of a water pipeline that cuts through their East Texas properties
Rancher Monty Bennett of Dallas filed the lawsuit trying to stop the pipeline, claiming it was illegally approved in secret.
The Tarrant Regional Water District has released a statement saying the district, "...complies with all applicable laws, including the Texas Open Meetings Act." It calls the suit "baseless and without merit"and says it will fight the charges.
Kelleher says she wants to see the work product that went into making decisions about the pipeline and other big ticket projects, including spending decisions for the Trinity River Vision plan and a lawsuit to buy Oklahoma water.
Based on what she knows she thinks the Trinity River Vision plan which includes new development along the waterway is “great.”
But Kelleher is concerned the district has spent more than $6 million on a lawsuit seeking the right to buy Oklahoma water.
“If the role was reversed and Oklahoma was trying to come to Texas to take water from our side I think there would be men and women armed trying to prevent it,” reasoned Kelleher.
Kelleher thinks the board should instead have spent the money desalinating the mineral-laden water it can access on this side of the border.
The TRWD claims a four-state agreement known as the Red River Compact gives it the right to the Oklahoma water which would double the water district’s supply.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the lawsuit in June.
Among the suggestions Kelleher says she’ll make soon after she’s sworn in May 21 is for board meetings to be held in the evening when members of the public are more able to attend.