By Fran Rhodes, President, True Texas Project
I just got home from attending the Tarrant Appraisal District (TAD) special Board Meeting. For this meeting, Item 5 on the agenda was “Recognize Visitors; Hear Public Comments”. Item 6 was Recess to Executive Session, and Item 8 was “Action Item: Deliberation and possible action on the June 13, 2022 letter from attorney Frank Hill to the members of the Tarrant County Appraisal District Board of Directors and other issues related to the TDLR Complaint filed against Mr. Hill’s client. “ (Chandler Crouch is Mr. Hill’s client). View the Agenda here.
I went to this meeting to speak out in support of Chandler Crouch.
Background: Chandler is a taxpayer champion and real estate broker, who files appraisal protests for anyone in Tarrant County FOR FREE! His only compensation for doing this is real estate referrals from people who think he’s a great guy. And he is a great guy! He’s been doing it for 6 or 7 years, and this year alone he filed 28,000 protests.
Now, a TAD employee, Randy Armstrong, who is head of the residential appraisal division of TAD, has filed four complaints against Chandler with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. (TDLR is the department that issues real estate broker licenses). In my opinion, (and in the opinion of some folks that are much smarter than me), the complaints have no basis when you look at the facts, and Chandler will be cleared of wrong-doing. Randy Armstrong has a right to file a complaint if he believes there has been an issue. The complaints have now been filed, and TDLR will do their investigation, and make their ruling. But that’s not the important thing going on here!
The important thing is the sneakiness surrounding the whole affair! First, Mr. Armstrong filed the complaint on TAD letterhead, and signed it as a TAD employee, but didn’t inform the rest of the TAD Board. There is also a history of dust ups between Armstrong and Crouch, and the complaints look like an attempt to get back at Chandler for helping people lower their appraisals. Second, to add to the sneakiness, when the Board called this special meeting to discuss the issue and take possible action, they didn’t post the meeting notice on their own website. They posted it on the County’s website under “public notices”. Which NO ONE NOTICES. I don’t know if they were trying to hide the meeting from the public, but if that was their intent, they clearly failed. About 300 people showed up this morning to support Chandler! Maybe more, I’m not good at judging crowd size. Chandler met with TAD Board last week, and asked them to take action on the issue before everything hit the media, but they did not. Now it has hit the media big time!
So, let’s get to that showing up part and the hot mess.
Hot Mess #1.
The meeting was scheduled to begin at 9, and citizens wishing to speak were instructed to show up by 8:45. I arrived at 8:30 and there was already a line outside the building. About 8:45, a TAD employee came around with sign up sheets. We filled them out, and he collected some, but not all. There was no attempt that I could see to keep them in the order received, or mark them with numbers, or anything. Just a pile of papers. And some people did not turn theirs in at all because they didn’t know the man was collecting them. I don’t know what’s happening to those folks. They may still be out there, melting in the Texas sun.
I’ve attended dozens of public meetings, and often waited 8 to 12 hours or more to testify, but at least I (usually) have a place to sit inside a building, and I know that my name will be called in the order in which it was given. No one at this meeting knew what to do or how to do it. Chaos reigned the entire time.
Hot Mess #2
Around 9, or a little after, they started letting people into the room who had signed up to speak. Fourteen people. That’s how many chairs were in the room for guests. You can see from the photo that it’s a really small room. (This photo is not from today’s meeting, it’s a previous meeting in the same room). Fourteen was about the most that would fit in that room. THEY COULDN’T FIND A BIGGER ROOM? Unless they’ve been living under a rock the past week, they had to know that tons of people would show up for this. I’m sure the County could have found a space to accommodate all the people. The ones who did not plan to speak, and just showed up for support, never got to go inside the room (or even the building). They got to stand outside in the heat and wait for nothing.
We asked for permission to let in people that were older, suffering from the heat, etc. and were told no. George Dodson, Colleyville City Councilman was standing with me, and we all thought that if anyone should be let in to speak it should be a person who actually participates in electing the TAD Board members, and has a direct stake and authority over what’s happening, but we were told no.
There were a lot of media people there. Some got in and some didn’t. Inside the room all 4 major TV networks were there with the big cameras, and a couple of others I didn’t identify. But print media were mostly told no. There was one lady from Ft Worth Reports who eventually convinced the officer at the door to let her in, but Erin Anderson with Texas Scorecard was denied repeatedly, given several different reasons, including I don’t know. When she asked if she could speak with someone who does know, she was told NO.
There was also a gentleman who wanted to go inside at the beginning and live stream so that those standing on the outside could at least monitor the meeting. He was told no.
At one point we saw an ambulance and fire truck pull up and the EMTs went inside. I learned later that an officer had pushed a man to the ground and he required medical attention. Can’t say if that’s totally true or not – but that’s what I heard. The ambulance and EMTs were real, I saw them.
They would not even let people in to use the bathrooms, saying the building was at Fire Marshall capacity. Are we are to believe that no more than 14 people are ever in the TAD building on a normal day of doing business?
Hot Mess #3
Shortly after the first 14 people were let in, we heard that they voted to alter the agenda and go immediately into executive session instead of hearing public comments first. That lasted about an hour. They then reconvened in regular session and started taking public comment. So I’m wondering- did they make a decision in executive session about what they are going to do, and only listened to public comments because they have to?
As time wore on, people started to leave. Maybe that was the Board’s intent in the beginning. I’m sure that fewer pesky complaining citizens make it much easier to do their jobs, but that’s not how it’s supposed to work.
I just don’t understand why elected government representatives feel the need to shadow things in secrecy and behind closed doors. But many of them have a tendency to do just that. They forget that we are the ones who put them there, and it’s our money that pays their salaries and expenses. 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. But that’s pretty much what happened at the TAD Board meeting this morning.
My comments to the Board focused not so much on Chandler Crouch, but on the unethical behavior of some employees of the TAD and the TAD Board. There are several articles written about the whole issue where you can read about the details of the complaints that were filed, Chandler’s response to them, the history of bad behavior from TAD employees, and the “culture of deception” that seems to reign at the Tarrant Appraisal District.
Links to the articles are provided below. Read for yourself and draw your own conclusions, but I hope you’ll join me in calling for a complete overhaul of the TAD Board, and changing the culture to one of transparency, integrity, and trust.
Chandler’s Blog with the complaints, his responses, and action items
Texas Scorecard Article by Robert Montoya
Texas Scorecard Follow Up Article by Robert Montoya
Fort Worth Weekly article, “Culture of Deception”
The next time elections will be made to the TAD Board will be in December, 2022, for terms beginning on Jan 1, 2023. (Note: TAD Board members are elected by the votes of the taxing entities within Tarrant County. If you want to help someone get elected to the TAD Board, you have to lobby the elected representatives of the taxing entities.)
On The Bright Side…..I can always find a bright side! Chandler arranged for a Taco Truck to be there, and paid for breakfast tacos and cold drinks for anyone who wanted them. Thank you, Chandler! I was ready for 2nd Breakfast.