Less than a week after JD Granger announced his departure from the Tarrant Regional Water District, he is set to rejoin the district in a new capacity as a consultant in May.
Dan Buhman, general manager for the water district, said the February appropriation of $403 million to complete part of the Panther Island project makes it essential to “leverage all available resources to ensure the project’s success.” To that end, the district has agreed to a six-month consulting contract with Granger’s newly formed LLC, JD Granger Group.
Granger’s LLC will provide institutional knowledge and strategic input, as well as support on project management as various Panther Island initiatives move forward, Buhman said.
“Further, as Panther Island begins to transform and develop as the new bypass channel is built, TRWD will identify consulting services that will be crucial as we move forward with selling land that is surplus to the project’s construction needs,” he said. “We will work with this consultant to plan for the sale of land tracts to the private sector for development that follows the vision for Panther Island.”
Under the contract, Granger’s company will be paid $12,000 per month, over a span of six months. The contract totals $72,000. The listed scope of services includes six tasks:
- Consultant will report directly to the general manager of the District and take direction on project tasks from the water district’s program manager/director. Monthly coordination meetings will be held with the general manager to report on and coordinate consultant activities
- Coordinate and execute strategic meetings with local Corps of Engineers’ leadership to drive project performance.
- Provide strategic input on Central City funding strategies.
- Advise on local betterment plans per Central City project designs. Review canal and public parkway (i.e., “riverwalk”) implementation strategies.
- Review and provide strategic guidance and institutional knowledge regarding creation of a Public Improvement District on Panther Island, the Tax Increment Financing agreement, canal funding, and other project elements as needed.
- Provide input as requested to public information campaigns and presentations to project partners.
The contract does not include specific markers of success for the tasks listed. Under the ‘standard of performance’ clause in the contract, Granger’s company agrees to provide services in a “good, professional and workmanlike manner.”
Granger’s role at the water district has undergone significant changes over the past few years. The son of U.S. Rep Kay Granger, he was brought on to head the project soon after it began, but was ousted from his role as executive director in 2019 in an effort to improve the project’s optics. He continued to work with the district on the project, but never received another formal title.
His wife, Shanna Cate Granger, was formerly placemaking manager for the district and worked on the Panther Island senior management team. She left amid efforts by the water board to address community complaints about nepotism. An official reason for her departure was not given by the district.
“This is a rerun of what happened last year at the water district,” Lon Burnam, a former state representative and a leader of the Water District Accountability Project, said about the new consulting contract. “It just looks dirty.”
In 2021, when he was the water district board president, Jack Stevens unilaterally directed staff in March to pay retiring general manager Jim Oliver more than $300,000 in extra compensation.
The move was put to a stop by the water district board, who worried it was unlawful. The contract with Granger did not require board approval, according to Chad Lorance, water district communications manager.
Burnam said while the contract isn’t illegal, it raises concerns about potential conflicts of interest nonetheless.
“In the grand scheme of things, when you talk about money wasted, giving him a six-month contract would not be money wasted; it would be well-invested,” he said. “The question is, how do you keep him from various conflicts of interest, and frankly, self-serving at the expense of the district?”
A portion of the contract states that “consultant shall have no other interests which conflict with the interests of the district. Consultant agrees to make reasonable inquiry into the existence of or potential for such conflicts and to immediately disclose the same to the district.”
Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.
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