Kathryn Wilemon led a special meeting March 3 to discuss the future of the Tarrant Appraisal District board of directors — more than a week after announcing her resignation as its chair. 

The board voted 3-1 to send a notice of vacancy to the 73 taxing authorities in the county, in effect accepting her resignation and setting itself up to find her replacement. But the circumstances behind Wilemon’s departure have resulted in the TAD board entering a legal gray area, according to advice given to board members by the district’s attorney. 

Wilemon submitted a resignation letter Feb. 22 after Keller City Council voted to recall her, following several high-profile controversies that culminated in public outrage and calls for change within the appraisal district’s leadership. 

The process for filling a vacancy depends on the circumstances behind it. 

If a taxing authority, in this case Keller City Council, initiates the process for a board member to be recalled, all of the taxing area’s authorities who initially voted for the member must vote as a body on their recall, and then vote on a replacement. Wilemon was first elected to the board in 2019, and her second term would’ve expired at the end of this year.

However, if the board member resigns, taxing authorities will nominate people to fill in until the end of the term, at which point the TAD board itself will vote on a replacement. 

In Wilemon’s case, TAD received a recall notice, and then her resignation letter shortly thereafter. The Texas tax code that governs the appraisal district boards does not specify which action — the recall notice or the resignation — should supersede the other. 

More than 10 residents spoke at the special meeting, including Colleyville City Council member George Dodson.

“As a member of the (Colleyville) City Council I’m very disappointed and very upset,” Dodson said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for the board to choose a replacement without the involvement of the tax entities.”

Wesley Bullock, a Keller resident who spoke at the meeting, said he was offended by Wilemon’s resignation, which he described as an effort to circumvent the recall initiated by the Keller City Council.

“We’re approaching something very close to taxation without representation,” Bullock said. 

Rich DeOtte, the lone “no” vote on the motion to announce a board vacancy, said he believed the vacancy procedures in the Texas tax code apply to instances where a board member can no longer do their job, such as if they’ve moved out of the area or suffered an injury. The resignation of a board member facing recall, he said, should not take away the taxing authorities’ rights to appoint a new representative to the board.

“If somebody is vacant, but still present, is that a vacancy?” DeOtte asked. “I think that’s serving to take the eight entities that cast votes for Kathyrn, it’s taking away their rights to have their particular representation. And I’m opposed to that.”

The three board members who voted yes on the motion — Jungus Jordan, Tony Pompa, and Joe Ralph Martinez — declined to comment on their decision. Wilemon abstained from the vote, and also declined to comment.  

Now, chief appraiser Jeff Law will send both a notice of recall and a notice of vacancy to the eight taxing authorities. What happens next, no one in attendance could answer. DeOtte did not rule out seeking the state attorney general’s opinion.

“Luckily we’re in a legislative year,” Martinez said shortly before the final vote. “So hopefully our legislators can help clarify some of this situation so that we have, and other appraisal districts will have a better direction in the future.” 

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that all 73 taxing authorities will be sent a notice of vacancy.

Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at emily.wolf@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. 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.

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Emily WolfGovernment Accountability Reporter

Emily Wolf is a local government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Originally from Round Rock, Texas, she spent several years at the University of Missouri-Columbia majoring in investigative...