Financial Tammany In Trinity Riverland

Yuck. Financial tammany has come to Trinity Riverland here in Fort Worth, Texas.

And that’s no compliment.

Seems that a publicly-supported entity, the Trinity River Vision Authority (TRVA), headed by J. D. Granger, is spending around $1 million to hire a public relations consultant for the next four years. Part of the services this consultant will provide is:

• Fair contracting consulting services
• General consulting services
• Responsibility for filing registrations and reports with regulatory authorities
• Documentation of all contacts and communications with third parties
• Updated mailing lists and databases of same

On top of this, the contract requires the PR consultant to obtain certifications from the North Central Texas Regional Certification Agency (NCTRCA) as a woman-owned business, disadvantaged business, and minority business enterprises. Interestingly, the contract stipulates that the PR consultant must act professionally at all times.

Additionally, the consultant is required to supply the TRVA with evidence of insurance coverage blah blah blah.

After all this, immediate tasks are set forth that include TRVA staff training, community outreach (duh!), market surveys, printed materials, Web site responsibilities, special projects and solicitation of private donations.

Did I forget to mention that the contract was let without an RFP? And that the award went to none other than personal friend of Granger, Bryan Eppstein, a political consultant who’s been behind most of the campaigns of the county’s elected officials? When the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported (and supported) the award, I could hear the ghosts of Tammany Hall cheering all the way from New York City.

That ghoulish cheer was raised again two short weeks later when the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) hired Eppstein’s group to be a consultant for that publicly-supported body by further giving him another $750,000 contract. That’s $1.75 million altogether, an outrageous amount of payback.

Did I forget to mention that Eppstein was responsible for ensuring that two of the TRWD members get elected this past year? And that one of these members still owes Eppstein $30,000? That would be board member Jim Lane, who insisted that by voting to approve the contract with Eppstein, he wasn’t breaking any laws, though admittedly he realized that “it would raise a lot of eyebrows.”

Well, by Tammany Hall standards, this contract has “honest graft” written all over it. But until taxpayers in my neck of the woods let it be known that they won’t stand for it, I’ll be one of the few voices to call it like it is: The most dishonest “honest” graft to come along since George W. Plunkitt.

Question of the Week: Should Texas state law require RFPs for all services of publicly-funded bodies?