Hundreds show support for Fort Worth-area tax consultant

The Tarrant Assessment District’s loudest meeting to date concluded with a resolution to the ongoing dispute, but critics from the government agency say the job is not done.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Tarrant Appraisal District on Thursday morning to support Chandler Crouch, a tax consultant who helps homeowners protest their property tax assessments for free.

Crouch, a broker and founder of Chandler Crouch Realtors, is being investigated by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation after TAD Residential Appraisal Director Randy Armstrong filed complaints against Crouch using his TAD title.

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A person supporting Chandler Crouch before the Tarrant Evaluation District Emergency Board of Directors meeting Thursday, June 30, 2022 in Fort Worth, Texas. Madeleine Cook [email protected]

TAD assesses all properties in Tarrant County annually. Assessment values ​​are used to calculate homeowners’ property tax bills using tax rates set by taxing entities, such as cities, counties, and school districts. Because property values ​​have skyrocketed over the past 10 years – a 171% increase since 2011 – homeowners have seen a corresponding increase in their property tax bills.

After nearly four hours of impassioned public comment from Crouch supporters, TAD’s board of directors unanimously agreed to send a letter to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation stating that TAD does not had not sanctioned the complaints filed by Armstrong.

That’s the request Crouch’s attorney made in a letter dated May 12, 2022.

But, many speakers on Thursday, including Crouch himself, demanded more systemic change in the form of greater transparency from the agency as well as the resignations of Armstrong and chief evaluator Jeff. Law. Law is involved in the issue, as Crouch said he contacted him in November 2021 about the complaint, but the board said it only learned about the issue at its June 10 meeting. .

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After hearing from dozens of people demanding his resignation, Tarrant Appraisal District Chief Appraiser Jeff Law listens to another public comment Thursday, June 30, 2022 in Fort Worth, Texas. Madeleine Cook [email protected]

At the opening of the meeting, the five-person Board of Directors along with Statutory and Tax Assessor-Collector Wendy Burgess met in closed executive session for approximately 45 minutes. The legal reasoning for the closed session was personnel issues.

Beginning around 10:15 a.m., council began hearing three-minute comments from the public. The comments lasted nearly four hours.

The meeting took place in a room large enough for only 14 spectators. Security escorted members of the public in and out of the venue to provide commentary.

As a result, some people waited outside in near-100-degree weather for up to five hours. Some said they weren’t allowed into the building to use the restrooms.

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After speaking at public comments, Chandler Crouch listens to the Tarrant Assessment District Council Thursday, June 30, 2022 in Fort Worth, Texas. Crouch’s customers showed up to support him at the emergency meeting. Madeleine Cook [email protected]

TAD employees and Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office officials barred some accredited media from entering the building, saying the room was full.

“We’ve never had so many people come to a TAD meeting,” council chairwoman Kathryn Wilemon said when asked why the council was unprepared for the crowds.

Dozens of residents detailed the perilous rise in property tax bills and were bullied by Armstrong and the Assessment Review Board. They also discussed other issues that have plagued the agency in recent years, including a $12 million software glitch that led to an “explosive” audit, confusion over protest deadlines, reporting errors. taxes and the lack of notice of protest.

Then there is the rising protests against the property tax.

Between 2015 and 2019, the number of annual events at TAD more than tripled.

During his first two-year term, TAD board member Richard DeOtte began pushing for an audit of TAD to determine the cause of the increased protests. The explosion of protests was an outlier among large metropolitan Texas assessment districts, DeOtte noted.

He even caught the eye of State Senator Jane Nelson, whose district included much of Tarrant County. In April 2020, she wrote to the board asking for an investigation into the rising protests.

Although DeOtte’s push was not well received by all members, in June 2020 the board narrowly voted to consider a review. But when it came to launching the review, the board voted against it.

Wilemon said Thursday the issue has been resolved. DeOtte disagrees.

“What [this complaint against Crouch] did is wake a sleeping giant,” Richard Ramirez told the board during the public comment. “Today is not the end.”

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Hundreds of supporters waited outside the Tarrant Judging District to support Chandler Crouch during an emergency board meeting Thursday, June 30, 2022 in Fort Worth, Texas. However, the meeting room could only accommodate 14 people, leaving dozens waiting in the sun or stepping out of line before speaking. Madeleine Cook [email protected]

At the end of the public comment period, DeOtte, who ran for headquarters in 2020 to promote transparency, expressed disappointment with the handling of the situation.

“I don’t understand the complaint. I don’t know why this wasn’t addressed at first. I don’t know why it percolated for seven months,” he said.

When asked why Law delayed communicating to the board about this issue, Wilemon said she would withhold comments until the results from an internal perspective are shared.

During the public comment period, Wilemon challenged the speakers over their allegations of board corruption, but at the end of the meeting she acknowledged that the agency had work to do.

“We’re concerned. We have a bad reputation,” she said. “But it’s not going to continue with this advice.”

Despite his previous struggles to gain support from board members for the reform measures, DeOtte left Thursday’s meeting with optimism that the issue would lead to more rigorous efforts for transparency at the board level.

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Chandler Crouch holds his head in his hands during an emergency Tarrant Appraisal District Board of Directors meeting in Fort Worth, Texas on Thursday, June 30, 2022. Crouch and his supporters arrived to defend him against a complaint lodged by a director of TAD. Madeleine Cook [email protected]

This story was originally published June 30, 2022 12:16 p.m.

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Jess Hardin covers growth and development. After graduating from Georgetown University, she got a Fulbright scholarship to Georgia (the country) and served a brief stint in federal service in whistleblower protection. Jess arrives in Fort Worth after helping launch digital news startup Mahoning Matters following the closure of The Vindicator in Youngstown, Ohio. Send tips to [email protected] or via Twitter to @jesslhardin.

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