The city of Keller is contemplating litigation against the Tarrant Appraisal District’s board of directors, after the district’s chief appraiser declared an attempt to recall the board’s chair “canceled.”

Keller City Council voted Feb. 21 to recall Kathryn Wilemon from TAD’s board of directors. The next day, Wilemon submitted a resignation letter, teeing up a potential legal battle over who should pick her replacement — local taxing authorities, or the TAD board itself. 

Jeff Law, the appraisal district’s chief appraiser, told taxing authorities in a letter dated March 3 that the recall was canceled as a result of Wilemon’s resignation, leaving a vacancy on the board. 

A letter sent by Jeff Law, chief appraiser of the Tarrant Appraisal District.

TAD’s attorney, Law said, concluded that the board should move forward with finding Wilemon’s replacement. This differed from Law’s public comments at a March 3 board meeting, when he said neither process, the recall nor the resignation, superseded the other. 

The reasons behind Wilemon’s recall

Kathryn Wilemon initially came under scrutiny by the Keller City Council after a series of missteps and controversies during her time as board chair. These included locking residents out of a board meeting; an appraisal employee sending complaints against a local tax consultant to the state without board approval; and several conflict of interest reports.

Keller Mayor Armin Mizani sent a letter to Law disputing TAD’s attorney’s interpretation of the Texas tax code.

“This interpretation of the law is incorrect, goes against legislative intent, and is intended to silence all taxpayers represented by taxing entities such as the City of Keller,” Mizani wrote. “Let me be clear: the city of Keller will not stand idle. We are prepared to take any legal action necessary to ensure taxpayers’ voices are not silenced.”

He argued that taxing authorities should instead be responsible for appointing Wilemon’s successor, and pointed to a specific provision in Texas tax code that specifies that if a vacancy occurs after a recall, “the taxing units that were entitled to vote in the recall election shall appoint its new board member.” 

The Tarrant County Commissioners Court followed Keller’s lead and also voted 4-1 to recall Wilemon March 7, meeting the 50% voting threshold to officially enact the recall.

Then, County Judge Tim O’Hare told the Fort Worth Report that he wasn’t a fan of board members usurping the authority of taxpayers. Tarrant County public information officer Bill Hanna said Friday that the county is not considering legal action against the appraisal district board at this time.

Tarrant County’s criminal district attorney, Phil Sorrells, sent a different letter to Law March 10 informing him that the county intends to start the nomination process for Wilemon’s replacement. The county believes, like Keller, that the recall process prevails over the resignation, Sorrells said . 

“Tarrant County therefore seeks clarification from TAD on whether it will allow the recall process to proceed and recognize the replacement board member (chosen by the tax authorities)… or if Tarrant County must explore alternate legal remedies,” Sorrells wrote.

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