A law firm found former water board president Jack Stevens acted on his own, twice, in directing staff to exempt top employees from a district policy.

Attorneys at the law firm Thompson & Horton found only two incidents in which Stevens directed staff to take action without the rest of the board’s knowledge and consent, the new water board president Leah King said after a meeting Thursday. Before leaving office May 31, Stevens had directed staff to exempt two top employees from a Tarrant Regional Water District policy. 

The board learned of the two incidents in June and wanted to be sure others had not occurred, hiring Thompson & Horton to investigate. Stevens had exempted retired general manager Jim Oliver and Panther Island executive JD Granger from a district’s paid leave policy. The exemption could have resulted in the two being paid hundreds of thousands more dollars, but the board revoked Stevens’ actions so no payment went through.

On Thursday, the board spent an hour and a half in closed session discussing the matter with Thompson and Horton. 

When board members came out of closed session, they took no action other than to say they continue working to update their policies to prevent something like this from happening in the future.

“Our policies are a little broader than what the rest of the board would prefer and we’ll have the opportunity to make it far clearer to staff, to board, to the public as a whole,” King said.

Only Oliver is pursuing the payment. He has hired attorney Jason Smith. King said the district’s attorneys will continue to talk with Oliver and Smith and report back to the board, but as of Thursday, Oliver has not sued the district.

When asked if she could foresee a scenario in which the board would agree to pay Oliver some of what Stevens had arranged, King said, “I really don’t think that it’s wise for me to get into what we may or may not do. You know, what we’re focused on is doing what is right and what is fair for our taxpayers, as well as for this district. And that’s going to remain our focus.”

Stevens and Smith could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday.

Jessica Priest is an investigative journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at jessica.priest@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Jessica Priest

Jessica Priest is Fort Worth Report's government and accountability reporter. She was previously on USA TODAY's regional investigative team. After Jessica reported that a Midland County prosecutor worked...

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