Tarrant Appraisal District accepts board chairman’s resignation, but legal issues remain
Kathryn Wilemon hosted a special meeting March 3 to discuss the future of the Tarrant Assessment District board, more than a week after announcing her resignation as chair.
The board voted 3-1 to send a vacancy notice to the eight tax authorities who initially elected Wilemon, effectively accepting his resignation and preparing to find his replacement. But the circumstances behind Wilemon’s departure have led the TAD board to enter a legal gray area, according to advice given to board members by the district attorney.
Wilemon filed a resignation letter Feb. 22 after the Keller City Council voted to recall her, following several high-profile controversies that culminated in public outrage and calls for change within the assessment district’s leadership.
The process for filling a vacancy depends on the circumstances behind it.
If a tax authority, in this case Keller City Council, initiates the process for a council member to be recalled, all tax area authorities must collectively vote to recall him and then vote on a replacement. Wilemon was first elected to the board in 2019 and her second term was due to end later this year.
However, if the board member resigns, the tax authorities will nominate people to replace until the end of the term, at which point the TAD board itself will vote on a replacement.
In Wilemon’s case, TAD received a recall notice and his resignation letter shortly thereafter. The Texas tax code governing appraisal district councils doesn’t specify which action — the recall notice or resignation — should supersede the other.
More than 10 residents spoke at the special meeting, including Colleyville City Council member George Dodson.
“As a member of the (Colleyville) city council I am very disappointed and very upset,” Dodson said. “I don’t think it is appropriate for the board to choose a replacement without the involvement of tax entities.”
Wesley Bullock, a Keller resident who spoke at the meeting, said he was offended by Wilemon’s resignation, which he described as an attempt to circumvent a recall initiated by the Keller city council.
“We are approaching something very close to taxation without representation,” Bullock said.
Rich DeOtte, the only “no” to the motion to announce a board vacancy, said he believes the vacancy procedures in the Texas tax code apply to cases where a board member can no longer serve his or her duties. work, for example if he moved out of the area or was injured. The resignation of a board member who faces recall, he said, should not deprive tax authorities of the right to appoint a new representative to the board.
“If someone is vacant, but still present, is that a vacancy?” DeOtte asked. “I think it’s taking the eight entities that voted for Kathyrn, it’s taking away their right to have their particular representation. And I’m against that.”
The three board members who voted yes to the motion – Jungus Jordan, Tony Pompa and Joe Ralph Martinez – declined to comment on their decision. Wilemon abstained from voting and also declined to comment.
Now, lead assessor Jeff Law will send both a recall notice and a vacancy notice to the eight tax authorities. What happens next, none of those present could answer. DeOtte did not rule out seeking the opinion of the state attorney general.
“Fortunately we are in a legislative year,” Martinez said shortly before the final vote. “So hopefully our lawmakers can help clarify some of this situation so that we and other assessment districts have better direction going forward.”
Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at [email protected] or through Chirping. At Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial backers. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.