Nov

20

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : November 20, 2014

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–The Henderson County Grand Jury has been asked to look into allegations of wrongdoing by Tarrant Regional Water District. Outgoing Dist. 4 State Rep. Lance Gooden told those attending the November luncheon of the Cedar Creek Lake Area Chamber of Commerce that he testified in September on the matter.
Gooden said he strongly suspects wrongdoing and a cover up because his repeated Open Records requests for basic accounting documentation have gone unfulfilled and been repeatedly responded to by letters from lawyers.
“I’ve turned in open record requests in March and they have stonewalled me since then,” he told The Monitor Monday.
Correspondence from TRWD has come back four and five times stating the information Gooden requested is either not kept or further clarification is needed. Another time he was told he has to come down to their office in Austin to view it, he said. Some of his requests include accounting documents, list of expenditures and lobbying contracts, Gooden said.
“There are unanswered questions and possibly law breaking,” he said.
The requests were initiated because a Henderson County landowner asked Gooden to look into the TRWD for mismanagement of funds. The landowner charges that the TRWD owns a costly lakehouse, flies their people in and out by helicopter and provides a number of costly perks to insiders, all the while pumping more and more water from Cedar Creek Lake and raising the cost of raw water and the cost of water to its Fort Worth customers.
“I’ve never had this experience with any other governmental agency,” Gooden said.
Checking with the Henderson County Appraisal District found the TRWD owns 11 properties at Cedar Creek Lake, none of them with a residence.
The TRWD was created in 1924, as a political subdivision of Texas. TRWD provides raw water to more than 1.8 million people, including residents of Cedar Creek Lake, and maintains floodway levees along the Trinity River. It also has broad powers to take private land for eminent domain purposes.
“Any citizen has a statutory right in Texas to appear before a grand jury,” Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee said in a statement on the matter. “Furthermore, grand juries have broad power to subpoena witnesses and documents, and to conduct investigations.”
Gooden isn’t the only one having trouble gaining access to basic accounting information. A recently elected board member has also gone to the press complaining of the lack of transparency from the district.
Gooden could not be more specific about his testimony before the grand jury. “Secrecy is a hallmark of the grand jury and its proceedings for a number of reasons,” McKee’s statement explains. “One of those reasons is to protect the integrity of an investigation. Another is to protect the reputation of an individual who might ultimately be cleared by a grand jury investigation. I, along with any witness that testifies before a grand jury, am under a legal obligation to not divulge any testimony, questions or things that they have observed before a grand jury.”
TRWD representatives could not be reached for comment concerning Gooden’s allegation about misuse of funds or the grand jury investigation.
TRWD’s media spokesman Chad Lorance requested that an email be sent to him outlining Gooden’s allegations before he issues a statement. TRWD owns Cedar Creek Lake, and it was built as a water reservoir for Tarrant County in the mid-1960s.
On June 21, TRWD board member Mary Kelleher told a group of journalists and others at the University of Texas at Arlington that the water district was being uncooperative in providing public information.
TRWD Executive Director Jim Oliver responded to her remarks with several years worth of statistics on open-records requests. Kelleher responded that the stats, though probably correct, are misleading. Others including The Fort Worth Weekly have had similar experiences when it comes to gaining public information about the expenditures of the district. Every request is responded to within the 10 working days as the law requires but the requestor is given the runaround instead of the information.
Usually, a letter from a lawyer is received stating that district records do not correspond to information you are seeking. For instance, The Fort Worth Weekly reports: it’s well known that top water district officials put relatives on the agency’s lucrative payroll. But ask the agency for a list of relatives who work there. Ask how many of Oliver’s relatives work there. You won’t get a straight answer. You’ll get a non-answer from a lawyer. However, in Oliver’s mind, that counts as the agency responding to a public information request in a timely manner.
Oliver’s elitist, secretive attitude is one of the reasons Kelleher said she decided to seek a spot on the board in 2013.
Kelleher said Oliver was trying to muddy the waters with his statistics. “The general statistics you attached regarding the district’s responses to open records requests for the last few years imply that these statistics were discussed [at the meeting in June],” Kelleher wrote. “They were not. Instead, we discussed the district’s response to two particular requests for records – one from me, and the other from State Rep. Lance Gooden. It is indisputable that both these requests have been stonewalled … . There is no excuse for the district’s reluctance to freely share information with the public and elected officials when it is a taxing entity and a subdivision of Texas state government.”
Kelleher, who is a school psychologist by education, and employed by Tarrant County Juvenile Services as a Court Intake Supervisor for 22 years, closed with a final thought.
“If we are to move forward in the best interests of the residents and taxpayers of the district, your attempts to bully, intimidate, and harass public officials who demand transparency from the board must stop,” she said. “Your behavior has resulted in a hostile work environment for me and has damaged the reputation of the district.”
Elected to the board in 2013, she and her husband own farm acreage on the east side of Fort Worth.

Nov

20

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : November 20, 2014

Monitor Photo/Summer Simpson Mabank Lady Panthers basketball player Madison Holyfield goes for the easy layup in Mabank’s 58-44 victory over Lindale Nov. 14 in Mabank.

Monitor Photo/Summer Simpson
Mabank Lady Panthers basketball player Madison Holyfield goes for the easy layup in Mabank’s 58-44 victory over Lindale Nov. 14 in Mabank.


By Erik Walsh
Monitor Sports Editor

MABANK–Carson Marsh scored 32 points and grabbed nine rebounds – while going 10 for 10 from the free throw line – in The Lady Panthers season opening 58-44 victory over Lindale Nov. 14.
Mabank led the whole way, coming out to a quick 14-7 lead after the first quarter of play. By halftime the Lady Panthers doubled their scoring, gaining a 28-12 lead. Mabank added 12 more points in the third quarter and 18 in the fourth, cementing the win.
Marsh’s excellent play got Mabank going early and they never looked back. Her excellent play led the team in nearly every offensive and defensive category, including points (32), free throws made (10), rebounds (nine), assists (four) and steals (six).
Everything fell into place for the Lady Panthers and first year Head Coach Christie Shoulders was pleased with her team’s great start.
“I’m extremely happy and proud of the girls first game of the season,” Shoulders said. “They put forth a great effort and hustle. I am looking forward to more great things to come this season.”
Other statistical contributors for Mabank include Madison Holyfield (18 points, nine rebounds, three steals, six for six from the free throw line), Jill Odom (six points and one rebound), and Jessica Vess (two points, one rebound and two assists).
The Lady Panthers are back in action Nov. 21 at home when Forney comes to town.

Nov

20

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : November 20, 2014

Courtesy Photo Dottie Fink wins a $100 Walmart gift certificate at the Jeanie Hulsey Bridge Benefit Oct. 23.

Courtesy Photo
Dottie Fink wins a $100 Walmart gift certificate at the Jeanie Hulsey Bridge Benefit Oct. 23.


Special to The Monitor
TOOL–The Literary Club of Cedar Creek Lake raised $3,112 at the Jeanie Hulsey Bridge Benefit Oct. 23 held at at the Cedar Creek Lake United Methodist Church in Tool.
Added to past years, the bridge tournament has raised $45,676 for The Library at Cedar Creek Lake.
Two divisions played and Bridge Studio owner Gloria Rowland acted as the director of the sanctioned duplicate division. Ruth Pimm and Judy Scott co-chaired the event.
Donated prizes were awarded to the winners of both divisions. Dottie Fink was the winner of the donated $100 gift card.
Literary Club members worked in the kitchen to serve luncheon to the players.
The Literary Club meets every second Tuesday of the month at 9:30 a.m. at The Library at Cedar Creek.
Guests are welcome.
For membership information, call President Rosalie Randall at (903) 498-8333.
More photos from this event can be found in the Thursday, November 20, 2014 issue of The Monitor.