Gooden Announces Water District Questioned by Grand Jury

State Rep. Lance Gooden speaks to the Cedar Creek Lake Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Nov. 13.
State Rep. Lance Gooden speaks to the Cedar Creek Lake Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Nov. 13.

By Michael V. Hannigan

Thursday, State Rep. Lance Gooden announced that the Henderson County Grand Jury questioned officials from the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) in September at his request.

TRWD owns and operates Cedar Creek Lake as well as three other major water reservoirs.

Gooden told members of the Cedar Creek Lake Area Chamber of Commerce that he was concerned with the way the TRWD board is spending money, but said he has been stymied from getting details.

“I suspect that there’s probably mismanagement and there are things happening there that should not be happening, which is why I turned in an open records request in March,” he told HCN. “I have yet to get all the information I’ve requested.

“They have tried to require me to go to their attorney’s office in Austin to view documents, which is not required of a legislator. It is difficult for me to speculate what may or may not be going on when I don’t have the information I’ve requested, which is why I turned it over to our district attorney,” he added.

Gooden said he also testified before the Grand Jury, but said he was “not at liberty to say what went on in that room.”

Gooden told chamber members he heard TRWD has a house on Cedar Creek Lake used by only certain employees. He also said he heard the district had masseuses for employees.

Gooden said, “I think they are spending money they shouldn’t be spending.”

“Perhaps they don’t need all the water they are taking out,” he said.

An email to the TRWD communications manager asking for comment had not been answered as of publication.

Henderson County District Attorney R. Scott McKee said he could not comment on specific grand jury proceedings and released the following statement Thursday afternoon:

“Any citizen has a statutory right in Texas to appear before a grand jury. Furthermore, grand juries have broad power to subpoena witnesses and documents and to conduct investigations. Secrecy is a hallmark of the grand jury and its proceedings for a number of reasons. 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 is under a legal obligation to not divulge any testimony, questions or things that they have observed before a grand jury. I take this obligation seriously and therefore can never divulge things that occur before them without a court order. Based on this legal and ethical obligation, I simply cannot comment on any matter or subject regarding the grand jury.”

McKee did say that the Grand Jury had made no decisions on anything related to the TRWD.

This marks the second time this year that Gooden has been on the opposite side of a dispute with TRWD.

In July, Henderson County Commissioners’ Court denied a petition to form the Wilson Ranch Fresh Water Supply District, which appeared to be mainly targeted at stopping a TRWD water pipeline from crossing East Texas Ranch LP property outside of Athens. Gooden was listed as one of the temporary supervisors of the FWSD if the water district had been approved.

Gooden is set to step down from the Legislature in January after losing his seat to Dr. Stuart Spitzer.

 

 

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