UPDATED July 1.
A huge crowd of protesters lined up outside the Tarrant Appraisal District office on Thursday morning, but they weren’t waiting to protest their property tax appraisals.
They were standing in line to speak against what they call corruption within the appraisal district office and in support of Chandler Crouch, a local realtor who has been harassed by one of the agency’s top bureaucrats.
Crouch is well known for helping homeowners lower their tax bills by protesting property appraisals. He’s helped tens of thousands of Tarrant residents, free of charge.
He also worked with state lawmakers to pass a bill preventing appraisal district employees from also serving as elected officials of taxing entities like cities and school districts.
Randy Armstrong is TAD’s director of residential appraisals and was also a longtime local school board member until the 2019 conflict-of-interest bill took effect.
Last year, Armstrong filed complaints against Crouch with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, accusing Crouch of intentionally misleading the Tarrant Appraisal Review Board and making a “mockery of the current tax system.”
Armstrong’s complaints were made using his official title and taxpayer-funded resources, but Chief Appraiser Jeff Law told Crouch in November the complaints were not filed by TAD.
Scorecard wasn’t allowed in the building to cover Thursday’s meeting (though several larger media outlets reportedly had camera crews inside the meeting room).
TAD officials also limited the number of people allowed inside to speak to 14 at a time, leaving scores of citizens to swelter in the summer heat while waiting their turn.
Protester Meredith Brown, who was in the first batch of citizens allowed inside the meeting, emerged after nearly an hour and told Scorecard that once the board convened, members immediately voted to change the agenda and delay public comments. She had to leave without being heard.
The special meeting, announced last week, was set to start at 9:00 a.m. with public comments, followed by a closed session to discuss Armstrong’s complaints against Crouch and actions requested in a June 13 letter from Crouch’s attorney to members of the TAD board of directors:
Stated simply, we want your board to clear our client’s record with your board by writing to the TDLR and withdrawing the complaint and/or notifying that department that it has not authorized the filing of such a complaint.
Protesters said they want stronger action from the board, including the removal of Armstrong and his boss Law. They also want more transparency and accountability.
“Chandler has done a huge service for the taxpayers of Tarrant County. All this targeting of him is completely unfair,” Tarrant resident Fran Rhodes told Texas Scorecard while waiting in line to speak in support of Crouch. “But the more important point is, we’ve exposed through this the deceit and the shadowy activities of the TAD board.”
Why do they keep hiding these things from us? We should be able to expect transparency and honesty from our government entities, and we’re definitely not getting it from this board.
After four hours of public comments, the TAD board agreed to Crouch’s request to send a letter to the licensing department stating that Armstrong “did not have the permission or authority of the Tarrant Appraisal District to file the TDLR complaint on its behalf.”
But the board did not take action on any personnel issues, disappointing citizens who hoped to see Armstrong and Law sanctioned or fired for their conduct against Crouch.
“TAD did not do near enough today and treated taxpayers that showed up horribly,” protester Laura Harshbarger said following the meeting. “They need to take care of their ‘personnel issues,’ and why it takes multiple meetings on our taxpayers’ dime to do so is just not right.”
“There is no reason on earth for government entities to treat well behaved citizens, who are trying to participate in the governmental process, like dirt under their feet,” added Rhodes. “But that’s pretty much what happened at the TAD Board meeting.”
Whether any heads will roll over officials’ misuse of governmental authority remains to be seen.
The next Tarrant Appraisal District board of directors meeting is scheduled for August 12.