Troubles at the Windermere Oaks Water Supply Corporation

As drought continues, will we have enough water this summer and at what cost?

The less than one-year track record of two Board members now in complete control of the Windermere Oaks Water Supply Corporation (WOWSC) is creating serious concerns for the future of Windermere Oaks among its residents, property owners, and Spicewood Airport hangar owners.

While you (and I!) undoubtedly will be pleased to see reduced rates in your 2024 water bills* due to the Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) reversal on precedent, this and other actions actually jeopardize the long-term financial sustainability of the WOWSC.

It is impossible to be brief about the complex matters of a locally-run water company. I’m highlighting below the main concerns . Details follow the summary, with references to videos that you could watch too. I’m saving you that trouble, but truly in the segments I picked you can see why I am so troubled at what has been happening. Please consider the following issues:

Will we have enough water?

  • Previous Boards’ plans for an equipment overhaul to make a new clarifier tank have been scrapped entirely, even at a $7,000 loss to WOWSC. No plans have replaced them. The previous overhaul plan could have been completed by April 2024. That will not happen now. Without a new clarifier, the water plant may be incapable of clarifying/producing enough water.

What will delay of the clarifier cost us?

  • Continuation of the drought and low lake levels could require WOWSC to truck in water with 5,000-gallon trucks. The company sells about 50,000 gallons a day. Previous truck-in costs from 12 years ago would add $50-100 to your bill for usage over 3,000 gallons. The Board can adjust those costs to today’s market rates.

Is the Corporation functional after the election of two particular Board members in 2023?

At this time, the WOWSC Board consists of only 2 WOWSC members: Rene Ffrench and Jeff Walker. Since Mr. Ffrench’s and Mr. Walker’s election on April 15, 2023:

  • Seven (!) community members have resigned or changed their mind about serving on the Board with Mr. Walker and Mr. Ffrench. This is unprecedented in the history of the WOWSC or just about any organization that does not have serious underlying problems possibly related to policies and personalities.

  • In addition, in January the WOWSC Manager of 20+ years resigned. His key contractors for accounting and tax preparation also resigned. Mr. Ffrench and Mr. Walker changed prior corporate behavior, including: appearing unannounced at professional offices, shouting demands; cancelling payment checks to vendors, payments that had been authorized by other Board members; scrapping previously engineered, approved and partially paid-for plans for a clarifier tank as mentioned.

Is the Board considering more litigation for personal reasons that will cost you more money?

  • Both Mr. Ffrench and Mr. Walker initiated litigation against WOWSC in 2022 and prior. Now in office, they will consider, at their current two-member March 19 meeting, whether to initiate litigation against WOWSC’s former attorneys. They could use the sale of WOWSC assets to fund their litigation, if those assets don’t get tied up once their litigation starts. Both issues — the land sale and litigation — are to be discussed behind closed doors at their March 19 meeting. (To his credit, thankfully, Mr. Walker seems opposed to Mr. Ffrench’s ideas on litigation, as will be described below.)

I encourage you to read the rest of this post and to watch the video segments that substantiate the points. Then, please send Mr. Ffrench and Mr. Walker your thoughts about their leadership, or attend the March 19 meeting. You could send notes to them through before or after the March 19 meeting.


Joe Gimenez

Former WOWSC Board President, 2019-2023

The following observations come from meeting videos posted at Windermere Oaks in the Raw – YouTube. The Secretary-Treasurer, Mr. Ffrench, has not seen to the writing, Board approval and posting of meeting minutes since April 2023, so these videos are all that is available to cite.

Board Turmoil: The Board is unable to attract and retain talented individuals to serve on our community water board:

  • Julie Neumann – Won uncontested election at Annual Members meeting Feb. 24, 2024.  Board elected her President Feb. 24; she presided at March 12 Board meeting, resigned at end of March 12 meeting.
  • Judy Miller – Won uncontested election at Annual Members meeting Feb. 24.  Elected by Board as Secretary-Treasurer on Feb. 24; attended March 12 meeting; resigned March 13.
  • Patti Flunker – Appointed to Board on Feb. 24 at Directors meeting. The Board had not properly put vacancy appointment on the Agenda so the appointment was then ratified at the March 12 meeting agenda, to comply with the Texas Open Meetings Act. Ms. Flunker resigned at the end of the March 12 meeting.
  • Richard Schaefer – Won uncontested election at April 15, 2023, Annual Members meeting. The Board elected him President same day. Mr. Schaefer resigned Feb. 21, 2024, three days before the 2024 Annual Members meeting.
  • Jeff Anderson – Appointed to Board in March 2023. Resigned in October 2023.
  • 14-year veteran Board member – Won election in 2022. Declined to run in 2024.
  • Jay LeFevers – Submitted application for 2024 Board. Withdrew his candidacy after citing “unwelcoming” posts on NextDoor and witnessing a yelling match between Mr. Walker and Danny Flunker at Feb. 20, 2024, Town Hall meeting held by Mr. Ffrench and Mr. Walker.   

What underlying reasons might account for this turnover and turmoil?

When resigning at the end of the March 12 meeting, consider that Ms. Flunker described an email which Mr. Walker had sent her and other Board members beforehand:

“You guys [presumably Walker] throw accusations at us [Flunker and Neumann] that we’re not doing anything…I tell you what, everybody want to see what this guy [Mr. Walker] is behind closed doors?

This email is horrible. It was based on BS…You accused her of forgery and fraud…

You’re classless, you’re rude, and you’re foul and I refuse to be on any Board with you.”

The entirety of Ms. Flunker’s comments may be viewed in this video segment.

You can get a feel for Mr. Walker’s “style” by watching this segment also. The video starts with Mr. Walker partially off-screen to the left, but he is reading emails with former WOWSC attorneys (breaking the corporation’s attorney-client privileges, by the way.)

Is it any wonder that members of the community don’t want to spend their volunteer time in this sort of atmosphere?

Mr. Ffrench is signaling intent to sue the WOWSC’s former law firm.

At the February 24, 2024, Board meeting, the newly-elected/appointed Board members Neumann, Miller and Flunker followed the recommendations of Mr. Walker and Mr. Ffrench by:

  • Firing the Lloyd Gosselink law firm which had represented WOWSC since 2018 and won, or helped win, 5+ cases through their direct work or legal references and strategy (list below**)
  • Hiring The Carlton Law Firm, PLLC, for General Counsel.
  • Hiring Griffith Davison PC for litigation on an as-of-yet unspecified matter.

By the firing and hiring, Mr. Ffrench apparently wants to sue Lloyd Gosselink, “to embarrass them.” He said so at his February 20, 2024, town hall meeting:

Because we know that [Lloyd Gosselink], all four of the folks, are ethically bankrupt, and you can say that is a Rene Ffrench-ism, ethically bankrupt.

But the idea is, at this point, I do believe that we need to engage, and even though it may not be cheap it’s going to be a bargain.

We have to engage legal authority that really has some teeth in it. And the organization interestingly enough is the one that Patti Flunker introduced me to. It’s this Davison Griffith (sic) guys who are just absolutely salivating to get a chance to attack Lloyd Gosselink.

My opinion is that we need to engage [Griffith Davison] immediately to go in to address the fact that Lloyd Gosselink is ethically wrong. They did not have authorization [to submit filings and subsequent bills], you’ve got written proof of this. We get a chance to embarrass them. We get a chance to close that docket that’s only going to extend things…” (emphasis added)

See Video segment of Mr. Ffrench at Town Hall meeting here.

Ask yourself, “What could possibly go wrong with Mr. Ffrench’s intent?”

Consider the outcomes of Mr. Ffrench’s five-year legal battle against the WOWSC and eight former directors, in the case Ffrench, Dial, Sorgen vs. WOWSC and former Board directors:

  • A jury in 2023 awarded the WOWSC $70,000 in additional compensation from a former director for acreage purchased in 2016. $35,000 was awarded to Mr. Ffrench/Sorgen/Dial; $35,000 was awarded to the WOWSC.
  • In court testimony in November 2022, the attorney for Mr. Ffrench/Sorgen/Dial said she’d invoiced more than $400,000 to her clients.
  • The WOWSC paid Lloyd Gosselink to defend it at cost of about of $500,000.
  • The WOWSC paid another firm about $410,000 to defend former directors. Prior WOWSC Boards recouped those directors’ legals fees for the WOWSC through successful lawsuit against its insurance company ($410,000). Plus those Boards won attorney fees ($110,000) and interest (approx.: $148,000) paid to the WOWSC.
  • Mr. Ffrench/Sorgen/Dial placed lis pendins on other WOWSC property, preventing its sale by the WOWSC. Their move prevented the WOWSC Board from using a land sale to offset court costs.

It wasn’t cheap, but was it a bargain? 

The parties spent approximately $1.5 million for Mr. Ffrench and his co-plaintiffs to recover $35,000 for themselves, and $35,000 for the WOWSC. ROI bargain? At least Mr. Walker has raised questions about Mr. Ffrench’s plans, as can be seen in the videos. He should be commended for that.

Key water equipment improvements have been unfunded and discontinued.

Mr. Ffrench and Mr. Walker have now scuttled a plan that had previously been vetted and approved by previous Boards from 2020-2023 for retrofitting an old storage tank into a clarifier tank. Clarifier tanks hold water until silt and debris drop to the bottom and the top water becomes clean enough to treat further.

A previous Board in 2021 secured $200,000 in loan money (for 20-yrs at a 3.5%) to build a new 125,000-gallon storage tank alongside an older 125,000-gallon storage tank in the water plant.

At its March 12 meeting, the Board – before it disintegrated – authorized Walker to seek return of $7,000 already spent on the plan to retrofit. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to get it all returned.

Did scuttling cause the WOWSC’s prior accomplished manager to leave?

The prior water manager George Burriss had established a work schedule with contractors to retrofit the old tank into a much-needed clarifier for use by April 2024, when water demand increases. This is the same manager who, since the early 2000s, gained the confidence of numerous water company Board members to achieve following:

  • Designed and built the current water plant and pumping barge in the 2000s.
  • Relocated the wastewater treatment plant from the airport to the east of Exeter in 2014.
  • Advanced WOWSC’s operational capability by contracting with Corix Utilities in 2015.
  • Reconstructed the pumping barge after the flood of October 2018.
  • Remedied zebra mussels clogging our pipes by adding filtration systems at the barge.
  • Hired contractors to sandblast the old tank to prepare for retrofitting.
  • Had for seven straight years earned perfect water ratings from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency

Mr. Burriss had engineered a clarifier plan that was ready to go.

All of that has been dismantled and discontinued by Mr. Walker and Mr. Ffrench. They cited other engineers who had doubts about the retrofit plan, yet no alternative plan for a clarifier is evident.

Might the water manager have left the company because of the possibility of imminent water problems caused by Mr. Walker and Mr. Ffrench scuttling his plans for the clarifier?

Mr. Walker and Mr. Ffrench are under criminal investigation

The Burnet County Sheriff’s Office in March opened investigation into the Criminal Act of withholding information for Public Information Act requests from August-September 2023.

A request was filed August 22, 2023, for certain email and business records of Mr. Walker and Mr. Ffrench related to the business of the WOWSC. The WOWSC Chief Information Officer and its attorneys at Lloyd Gosselink sought compliance from Mr. Ffrench and Mr. Walker within the 10-day window required by law.

Mr. Walker failed to comply in timely manner, instead replying two months late after the state law deadline). Mr. Ffrench has not replied as of this posting. Outcomes from the investigation will be forthcoming.

Watch the videos, especially the last 25 minutes of the March 12 meeting and the February 20 town hall meeting.

Would you buy your home or hangar again if you happened to stumble upon the YouTube meeting videos of the recent Windermere Oaks Water Supply Corporation? 

* I am very pleased that the rates can be reduced. They should be because the Board of 2022 (pre-Walker and pre-Ffrench) won the insurance case and paid off attorney bills ($678,000). Any Board — however it might have been composed — could have reduced rates immediately after the insurance payment was received but because WOWSC had been tied up in the rate case process at the Public Utilities Commission, it did not have that legal ability to do so. It had to let the PUC set the rates — or if the Ratepayer Representatives could have seen fit to work with the company on reducing rates, that could have more immediately reduced rates as well.

**Here are victories achieved by the Lloyd Gosselink law firm since 2018, either through their direct work on WOWSC’s behalf, or their recommendations and counsel on strategy and references to legal partners:

  • Complete exemption from liability of damages against the WOWSC in the land sale case of Ffrench, Sorgen, Dial vs. WOWSC and Directors.
  • A $678,000 judgment paid to the WOWSC from insurance company. Lloyd Gosselink advised the Board that it had a good legal case for winning the award and recommended the insurance firm which secured the victory. (Shidlofsky)
  • Lloyd Gosselink referred the WOWSC to Enoch Kever. Through the work of the firm Enoch Kever LLC, the WOWSC achieved complete exoneration of seven of eight former Board directors who had been lumped into the wide-ranging land sale lawsuit of Ffrench /Sorgen/Dial vs WOWSC and former directors. It would have been a conflict of interest for LG to have represented the directors who were named individually in the Ffrench, Sorgen, Dial land sale case. The style of the Ffrench/Sorgen/Dial case added significant expense ($410,000) to the ratepayers of Windermere.
  • Victory of the WOWSC at the Public Utility Commission by Proposal of Administrative Law Judges (until one Commissioner overturned prior precedents).
  • PUC dismissal of Mr. Walker’s claims of election fraud and attempt to overturn election of his opponent to the Board in 2022.
  • Victory against Danny Flunker’s attempt to see client-attorney invoices under the Public Information Act. The corporation was protecting its legal strategies that could be gleaned from an opponent through analysis of invoices. This was right at the beginning of the Ffrench/Sorgen/Dial lawsuit, when they were amending their pleadings and trying to get a leg up on how they would pursue WOWSC. Eventually, the WOWSC released the invoices in their entirety. The early legal maneuverings had passed and privilege was no longer required. Nonetheless, the WOWSC had to protect its work and the Attorney General’s office agreed with WOWSC claims to protection.