For nearly five years, Chandler Crouch, a real estate broker and tax consultant, has helped property owners protest their appraisal with the Tarrant Appraisal District.
Just this year, Crouch says he has assisted nearly 28,000 homeowners so far — for free.
But in November 2021, the real estate broker received a letter from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation about four complaints filed by someone at the Tarrant Appraisal District, stating that he misrepresented facts and abused his dual position as a property tax consultant and Realtor to “intentionally mislead members of the Tarrant Review Board.”
These four complaints are the district’s attempt to “silence me,” Crouch said.
“I’m the guy that’s out there trying to help a bunch of people for free. And they’re trying to silence me, and it’s a matter of public concern,” Crouch said.
The four complaints were signed by Randy Armstrong, director of residential appraisal. In the complaints, Armstrong wrote that Crouch was attempting to discredit TAD staff while presenting false information at the hearings.
“Misrepresentations of fact in TARB hearings to achieve unwarranted value reductions by Mr. Crouch will likely continue only to promote his name and real estate brokerage. Mr. Crouch’s actions do in-fact create equity issues and inconsistent market values for all taxpayers in Tarrant County,” Armstrong wrote in one of the complaints.
In the complaint, Armstrong states that Crouch was appraising homes for far lower value than what he sold them to his clients. Armstrong also states that Crouch has protested over 20,000 but appeared to protest in person for only 730 properties.
For the remaining properties, sworn affidavits were filed with “more than 191,000 pages of evidence” that contain false testimony, according to Armstrong.
The complaint letters submitted to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation are signed off with Armstrong’s official title as director of residential appraisal and lists his work email as a contact.
The mailing envelope sent to the state licensing board also lists the appraisal district as the return address.
Attorney Frank Hill, managing director at Hill Gilstrap, is representing Crouch. These complaints are “very disturbing” and Hill believes this is a violation of his client’s First Amendment rights.
“At that point, we don’t know what the motive is. We don’t know whether the person who submitted it, did it individually or, as it’s signed off, did it on behalf of the board. Either way, it’s a bad thing,” Hill said.
After receiving the complaints, Crouch responded to the raised concerns in an online post.
Tarrant Appraisal District Chief Appraiser Jeff Law told the Fort Worth Report that neither he nor the appraisal district instructed Armstrong to submit a complaint to the department of licensing and regulation. The Tarrant Appraisal District will be opening an internal investigation with a third party to determine whether company resources and time were used to file the complaint.
“It was not filed on behalf of TAD. There are documents that show he used his title, which I quite frankly, don’t believe he should have. But then again, that’s going to be part of my investigation,” Law said.
In an interview with the Fort Worth Report, Armstrong said he filed the complaints in his capacity as director of residential appraisal and emphasized he did not discuss this with Law nor did Law see the complaints.
“I guess that was kind of the implication that he had something to do with it. He did not. It’s at my feet, my feet only,” Armstrong said. “It was never my intention to make this a public thrashing for anyone. But, I feel I had a right to file a complaint just like you or anyone else could. And I wasn’t trying to hide the fact that I worked here.”
Tarrant Appraisal District Hierarchy
The Tarrant Appraisal District is a state political subdivision and is governed by a five-member Board of Directors. The board members are appointed by the cities within Tarrant County.
The Chief Appraiser is the chief administrator and executive officer of the appraisal district. He is appointed by the Board of Directors. The Chief Appraiser can delegate authority and responsibility to his employees.
The Residential Department is one of six departments overseen by the Chief Appraiser.
Source: Tarrant Appraisal District
Armstrong said he was compelled to submit the complaints to the state department of licensing and regulation after conversations with staff about some of the affidavits Crouch submitted.
“I was doing it based on my conversations with the appraisal staff that were interacting with Mr. Crouch in his affidavit hearings that he was presenting,” he said. “They were coming to me with questions about things that he was putting in these affidavits, that I don’t feel were following the tax code, and they weren’t true. And that’s kind of the brunt of the investigation.”
The four complaints submitted by Armstrong against Crouch were discussed during a June 10 Tarrant Appraisal Board of Directors meeting. In the meeting, Law did not believe the Tarrant Appraisal District should be implicated in this because the letters were filed on behalf of an individual rather than the district as an entity, he said.
“Mr. Crouch has worked really well with us over these past several years and getting this process completed. I hope we continue to have a good relationship. I’ve always thought we’ve had a good relationship with Mr. Crouch, and I want that to continue,” Law told the Report.
Crouch’s attorney Hill said he wants the appraisal district’s board of directors to formally withdraw the complaints.
“I don’t care much about their purported investigation,” Hill said. “If they press on with this, we’ll probably file suit against the board and any other responsible person. And I can promise you, we’ll find out what the motivation was if we have to do that. Hopefully, we won’t have to,” he said.
Crouch addressed the board during that meeting’s public comment portion, in a video that was shared online.
Crouch believes that the official use of the appraisal district’s titles, contact information and addresses links the district to the complaints.
“It is unfortunate. I don’t like being a victim in this, but at the same time, I realized there are so many people that experience being disenfranchised by the government on different levels,” Crouch said.
Armstrong said he has not heard from the department of licensing and regulation since receiving notice that they got his complaint. Since filing the complaints in October, he said he thought the investigation would be over by now.
“I don’t have any direct line of communication to anybody… But if I could speed it up, I would love to speed it up. We need a resolution. But, other than that, I regret that it’s come to this crossroads,” he said.
The appraisal district board of directors plans to further discuss the issue again in an executive session at its next meeting in August.
Editor’s Note: this story was updated on June 21, 2022, to include additional documentation. The lede was updated to reflect the total number of appraisal protests Chandler Crouch assisted with this year.
Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @ssadek19. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.