Congresswoman Kay Granger’s daughter-in-law is leaving the Tarrant Regional Water District. Her departure coincides with the board’s efforts to address the community’s complaints about nepotism at the agency.

Shanna Cate Granger’s title is placemaking manager. She started working for the water district in 2004, and her last day will be on Nov. 19. She has served on the Panther Island/Central City Flood Project senior management team.

That project calls for using federal money to reroute a 1.5-mile stretch of the Trinity River to better manage floods and local money to redevelop an area north of downtown.

Some of her job duties include:

  • Fundraising for and planning all major events there, including the recent Oktoberfest Fort Worth
  • Directing the third-party venue rental program for the Panther Island Pavilion, where events such as the Water Lantern Festival and the upcoming River and Blues Festival are held;
  • Developing awareness of private real estate opportunities on Panther Island and connecting developers with the appropriate parties to further their plans there;
  • Acting as a liaison between existing businesses on Panther Island, including Coyote Drive-In and Panther Island Brewing, and the water district.

Cate Granger could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and the water district did not explain why she was leaving.

“TRWD is grateful for her leadership in developing and executing numerous events through the years and furthering our mission of enhancing the quality of life in communities we serve,” water district spokesman Chad Lorance said. “The district is currently developing a transition plan that will allow us to continue to put on these outstanding events in a way that meets the high standards the public has come to expect from TRWD.”

Cate Granger married Congresswoman Kay Granger’s son, JD Granger, in 2019. JD Granger is the executive director of the Panther Island/Central City Flood Project and was his wife’s supervisor for a time.

JD Granger was an assistant district attorney before he came to work for the district in 2006. Some have connected the project’s lack of federal funding to him being a congresswoman’s son. Former Mayor Betsy Price and the congresswoman clashed over this and offered dueling endorsements for Fort Worth mayor earlier this year.

JD Granger makes $242,216 annually, and Shanna Cate Granger makes $113,900 annually, according to the most recent data provided by the water district.

At its meeting Tuesday, the water district board adopted policies that, among other steps, prohibit the general manager from employing a spouse or other family members.  Policies governing other water district employees are still being drafted.

In September, the Fort Worth Report detailed many familial and romantic entanglements among employees at the water district.

The board also heard more on Tuesday about forensic audits. Members of the newly formed Water District Accountability Project are calling for the district to undergo a forensic audit in part because former board president Jack Stevens directed staff to give JD Granger and former general manager Jim Oliver more vacation time that they could cash out. Stevens did this without the rest of the board’s knowledge or approval, board members said.

After the board revoked Stevens’ action, Oliver threatened to sue the district. He claimed the district had violated the Texas Constitution, the Texas Open Meetings Act and discriminated against him because of his age. The board ended up giving him about $257,000 to drop his claims. Now, a Tarrant County grand jury is investigating the district.

“We are not confused,” one regular meeting attendee, Joyce Baker, said, referring to board member Jim Lane’s previous comments discounting calls for a forensic audit. “Forensic audits are done to help find out whether a crime has been committed or to help with a legal case. A forensic audit is not the same thing as an annual internal audit or the external audits mentioned by Mr. Lane and others.”

Baker said the water district should welcome a forensic audit.

“There is nothing to fear for those of you who have done the right things. Bless your hearts, if anyone related to TRWD fears a forensic audit,” she said.

Carol Tackel, the water district’s chief internal auditor, told the board that the district undergoes oil and gas, internal, IRS and financial audits.

Oil and gas audits determine the lease operator is in compliance with the relevant provisions of the lease agreement and is paying the proper amount of money. This type of audit has allowed the district to recover $3.5 million, she said. 

Internal audits, which the district has undergone at least twice a year, every year since 2007, evaluates internal controls, such as governance, accounting, operations, information systems as well as other areas identified in a risk assessment.

And finally, the IRS audits are done randomly and have so far gone well for the district while outside certified public accounting firms have found the district’s financial statements to be fair and accurate for the past 50 years, Tackel said.

Tackel did not offer a recommendation as to whether the board should hire someone to do a forensic audit, so the board did not do so. 

Board members instead spent much of the meeting in closed session, and board president Leah King declined to comment about the grand jury investigation afterward.

“Anything regarding that is going to have to go back to legal,” she said.

The board is next scheduled to meet Nov. 16.

In other business, the board:

  • Authorized staff to pay a firm about $77,000 to study how much it would cost to construct the Marvin Nichols Reservoir in East Texas and how much water it could hold.
  • Learned that the executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had recommended the Tarrant Regional Water District and the city of Fort Worth have a hearing to resolve their differences about a water reclamation facility on Mary’s Creek that the district fears could affect water quality in the Trinity River basin.
  • Watched a video showing that more than 4,000 volunteers picked up 9 tons of trash along the river in September. 
  • Settled two lawsuits about and purchased land needed for the Integrated Pipeline, a joint project between the water district and Dallas Water Utilities to bring an additional 350 million gallons of water per day from East Texas to the metroplex. The lawsuit settlements and purchase totaled $1,975,000.

This story was updated Wednesday, Oct. 20 to clarify Cate Granger’s job duties.

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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