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Tarrant Appraisal District IS Director Fired After Audio Recording Released

Cal Wood was let go after he was recorded talking about creating a “false narrative” about the district’s faulty website launch and surrounding issues.

Recorder on Laptop
Tarrant Appraisal District (TAD) on Friday said it fired its head of information systems, days after the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that he said he supported creating a “false narrative” to local media about persistent problems with the agency’s website.

Cal Wood had been suspended Monday after a Star-Telegram reporter inquired about his comments, which were captured on a recording during a meeting with coworkers. TAD had launched a website that wasn’t operational until weeks into the 30-day window property owners must file appraisal protests.

The recording, obtained by the Star-Telegram, came from an August staff meeting where Wood discussed strategy for sharing the news on TAD’s technological situation.

“I’m OK with creating a false narrative that distances the truth from the media,” Wood said in the recording. “That’s where I’m gonna have to really shut up today.”

Later in the recording, Wood says: “The further you create the truth from what’s being reported, the better you are. Because what do we need? Time, patience and money.”

The developments Friday come amid increasing pressure for the agency, which is responsible for appraising property values in Tarrant County, to be held accountable for a series of blunders and scandals this year, as previously reported by the Star-Telegram. This week, several top elected officials in the county have called for leadership changes.

In a brief statement Friday, Tarrant Appraisal District said its “ongoing internal investigation” by the agency’s attorney resulted in Wood’s firing.

“The comments made in the record of Mr. Wood are completely unrepresentative of the values held at TAD,” the statement said. “TAD apologizes for the confusion these statements have caused and remains committed to providing the public and members of the media with accurate and timely information.”

Issues with TAD’s website began in October when it was taken down for planned security updates. In March, Wood and Chief Appraiser Jeff Law assured the TAD board and the public that the website would be ready for property tax season.

But when it launched, the new failed to load for many visitors. Those who were able to access the site couldn’t use the automated market review tool until weeks into the 30-day period taxpayers are given to protest their appraisals. Access to this tool is required by law.

After public outcry, including a letter from Keller’s mayor, Law extended the protest deadline from May 15 to May 30. He and Wood blamed the slow speed on foreign “crawlers” and automated bots — specifically from India — that were searching TAD’s public data.

Law’s position with the agency has also become increasingly precarious, with some board members losing confidence in him. He was issued a letter of repair in April which outlined 11 items to be completed in 90 days, such as developing a plan to repair the agency’s reputation and ensuring that the agency’s computer systems and website comply with statutory requirements.

©2023 Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.