The Tarrant Regional Water District board of directors voted 3-0 to appoint Charles “CB” Team to the board in a Jan. 12 special meeting. Mary Kelleher, who was elected to the board in 2021, abstained.
Team will serve until May in the former seat of longtime board member Jim Lane, who died in late November. Lane and Marty Leonard’s seats will be up for election May 6, with Leonard already announcing her plans to retire after 17 years on the board. Team will be eligible to run for a four-year term this year, according to a water district press release.
Team, who has run for a board seat twice, didn’t confirm his candidacy for the 2023 election but said he has been seriously considering it. Candidates can begin filing for office Jan. 18 and will have until Feb. 17 to declare their candidacy.
The commercial real estate developer said he is excited to learn more about the behind-the-scenes operations of the water district, especially when it comes to water supply projects and infrastructure.
“Maybe at some point the smile will fade from my face, but I’m very, very excited about this,” Team said. “It’s not a responsibility that I take lightly. It’s a big responsibility, and I’m really looking forward to working with staff and taxpayers and interested parties to make sure that they’ve got access to these critical water resources.”
At a Dec. 13 meeting, board members voted to appoint Lane’s replacement from a list of unsuccessful candidates who ran in the 2021 election. Team finished fourth behind current board members Leah King, James Hill and Kelleher. He also appeared on campaign fliers alongside Hill and King in 2021.
The audio from the water district’s recording of the eight-minute meeting, including Kelleher’s comments on the vote, was mostly unintelligible. King, the board president, said the poor audio was because of technical issues.
In an interview, Kelleher said her abstention was because of her concerns that Team’s history of campaigning alongside board members King and Hill posed a potential conflict of interest since both had the opportunity to vote on Team’s appointment.
Before the vote, Kelleher spoke with the water district’s legal counsel, Stephen Tatum, about those concerns.
“He said there was no conflict, but the optics of that didn’t look right,” Kelleher said. “I have nothing bad (to say) about him at all. I think he’ll do a good job.”
Members of the Water District Accountability Project, a watchdog group pushing for more transparency at the agency, said they were unaware of the special meeting or Team’s appointment until contacted by the Fort Worth Report.
Doreen Geiger, a member of the watchdog group, expected a formal vote on Team’s appointment at the board’s regular Jan. 17 meeting, when she and other residents planned to speak. Team and one other member of the public attended the Jan. 12 meeting, Team said.
“They jumped the gun,” Geiger said. “I was not aware of a special meeting, but I’m not surprised that they have decided to appoint CB Team. That’s what I expected all along.”
King said they appointed Team at a special-called meeting to ensure there are enough board members to oversee the water district’s various committees in addition to appointing a candidate to the seat before Jan. 26 – the state-mandated deadline to replace Lane.
“We felt it was our responsibility to get that done. … We wanted to give ourselves enough time to be able to identify a person to come in and fill that remaining time,” King said.
Lane served on the land and recreation committees. The board will decide on committee appointments at the Jan. 17 meeting, when Team will be sworn in. Despite her abstention, Kelleher said she felt comfortable with how the board handled appointing Lane’s replacement.
“The voters will have a chance to decide whether or not they want to continue with CB Team or vote whoever they want in,” Kelleher said.
Though she likes Team personally, Geiger was also concerned with his profession as a developer and how that could overlap with the future of the Panther Island/Central City flood control project. The $1.2 billion project is expected to transform real estate development in downtown Fort Worth and the Northside community.
“I just don’t think it’s appropriate for someone who’s a land developer and commercial developer to be on the board of the water district,” Geiger said.
No one at Team’s firm Ellis & Tinsley, Inc., including Team, has not been involved with properties or transactions in the Panther Island area, Team said. He doesn’t intend to be involved with development in the area, especially now that he must be more careful about any potential conflicts of interest as a board member.
“Who better to help manage and understand that whole process than somebody who’s an expert in commercial real estate?” Team said. “I think I would be considered an expert. Then why would that be a bad thing on the board? I think it’s a great asset to the board, and I campaigned on that all along.”
Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman Foundation. Contact her by email or via Twitter.
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her by email or via Twitter.
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