Tarrant County commissioners unanimously requested Tarrant’s chief appraiser Jeff Law be removed after a vote of no confidence following renewed calls for a new head of the agency.
Commissioners delivered a message to the Tarrant Appraisal District board of directors: Change in the way the agency is managed. Taxpayers deserve transparency, outstanding customer service, stability and consistency when it comes to the appraisal district, County Judge Tim O’Hare said.
“This is not condemning the good men and women that work at the Tarrant Appraisal District, of whom there are many,” O’Hare said. “The buck has to stop at the top. The chief appraiser has been the common denominator throughout all of these issues and episodes, and it’s time to hold him accountable.”
The vote is somewhat symbolic, meaning it does not remove Law as chief appraiser. That decision falls to the TAD board of directors. According to the appraisal district, the board can choose to take this matter up at a future meeting.
The next board meeting is set for Nov. 10.
Commissioners pointed to years of issues plaguing the agency, resulting in a loss of faith in the chief appraiser and the agency’s ability to serve taxpayers.
Commissioner Roy Brooks lost confidence in Law years ago and called this vote “a historic act.”
“It has to do with (Law’s) mismanagement of that agency,” Brooks said. “He provides a profound lack of leadership to that organization, and it does not get better year over year.”
TAD said it does not comment on news outside of the organization.
How is the TAD board of directors appointed?
The Tarrant Appraisal District Board of Directors is appointed by the taxing units (the districts within its jurisdiction) to two-year terms. It consists of five directors and the county assessor-collector, who is not a voting member of the board.
Each district gets a certain number of votes that can all be given to one candidate or split among several. That number of votes is based on a formula in the Texas Tax Code. Currently, Tarrant County gets 515 of the total 5,005 votes for the board positions.
According to TAD, this number is updated every two years in September. New numbers are expected for the 2024-2025 term soon.
Here is the distribution of votes from 2021:
On Aug. 24, the mayors of Colleyville, Keller and Southlake issued a joint letter urging the TAD board of directors to appoint a new chief appraiser after another scandal put the agency back in the spotlight.
The mayors of all three cities wrote in their letter that they “refuse to sit complacent while the Tarrant Appraisal District tried to justify yet another scandal.”
The letter was issued after a leaked recording revealed TAD’s IT director, Cal Wood, suggested “creating a false narrative that distances the truth from the media.” Following an internal investigation, Wood was fired from his position.
Tensions between taxpayers and TAD escalated in June 2022 when Randy Armstrong, a director at the appraisal district, was investigated for potentially abusing his position to file a complaint against tax consultant Chandler Crouch.
A board meeting responding to that investigation raised questions about Open Meetings Act violations when doors were locked for most of the meeting, leaving speakers out in the Texas summer heat.
As a result of these two incidents, Law and Armstrong were suspended for two weeks.
In March 2023, TAD made headlines again after some municipalities asked for a recall of the board’s chair, Kathryn Wilemon. Wilemon instead resigned, prompting legal questions on how the incident should have been handled.
This vote is the culmination of over a year of incidents, Commissioner Alisa Simmons said, and it’s time for new leadership.
“It is clear that the chief appraiser’s approach to leadership is out of touch with the needs and concerns of our community,” Simmons said. “It is crucial for us to voice our dissatisfaction and demand better leadership.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated Aug. 30 to include more information on how the Tarrant Appraisal District board of directors is appointed.
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.
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