The Somervell Central Appraisal District’s board of directors will soon begin the search for a new chief appraiser after the panel accepted the resignation of Duane Cox on Monday.
Cox, who has served as the local appraisal district’s chief appraiser since Aug. 16, 2004, voluntarily submitted his resignation to the board of directors earlier this week following an hour-long closed-door session with the CAD’s directors and attorneys.
The board immediately convened into executive session with their attorney, Judy Hargrove, of Austin-based law firm Hargrove & Evans, for approximately 30 minutes before asking Cox to appear before CAD directors with his legal counsel, David Watkins, of the Dallas-based firm Jenkins & Watkins.
According to Watkins, the acting chief appraiser contacted him last Wednesday after Ben Mieth, chairman of the CAD’s board of directors, asked Cox to prepare the following week’s meeting agenda that included an item concerning his employment.
The agenda, posted the morning of March 28, included one item for action: “Discuss and possible action regarding the appointment, employment, evaluation, duties, discipline or dismissal of the Chief Appraiser.”
Sources close to the Reporter said that Cox, not knowing what action the board would be taking, began to clean his office of personal belongings last Wednesday.
Watkins spoke on behalf of his client and said he understood that the board was considering the possible discharge of Cox. “He values his job and doesn’t want to lose his job. In his profession, it’s not a position that’s easily filled. The effect on him and his family would be profound (if he were to be terminated).”
Cox’s attorney, claiming his client had not been informed about a possible dismissal from his duties at the local CAD prior to posting the meeting’s agenda, asked in open session for the board to take the time to discuss their concerns with the chief appraiser. “As we sit here today … we’ve asked for this to be (discussed) in open session to make comments. I think Duane should be responsive to your questions and look you in the eye. We don’t understand what he’s done or didn’t do, but every system has an opportunity for fairness.”
Prior to reconvening in executive session, Watkins also asked the board of directors to “come up with something objective” to grade and evaluate Cox’s performance. “We call this a ‘no-knock’ discharge. There’s nothing worse. I’d also ask the board to be specific as to what led to the (agenda) posting.”
Cox’s attorney, maintaining the chief appraiser had been surprised by the board’s upcoming deliberations said, “He’s your chief appraiser. You’re the board of directors. This (decision) is your responsibility. I ask you to give full consideration to this man, his family and his future.”
The board again went into executive session for approximately one our before announcing that the directors had tendered a voluntary resignation from Cox, effective immediately and officially relieving the chief appraiser from his duties.
A motion to accept the resignation was offered by board member Lee Magee and received unanimous approval by the CAD directors.
Just before taking action on the item, Cox left the building and said goodbye to co-workers. Mieth then called in the CAD employees to explain their action.
“We’ve been left completely in the dark. We need to see the appraisal district move forward,” Mieth told the staff. “Hopefully, the situation will be enhanced and that there’s no discontent here.”
The board’s chairman also informed the CAD employees that an interim will be brought in to help lead the office until a new chief appraiser is hired. Mieth also directed the CAD’s payroll supervisor, after an agreement between Cox and fellow directors, to continue to provide compensation to the former chief appraiser for 60 days, ending May 31.
“We appreciate the work you’re doing and have done,” Mieth told CAD employees after announcing Cox’s resignation. “We will be talking with you all and some of you individually in the coming weeks.”
Board members tentatively set another special-called meeting for Monday, April 5 at 12 noon to possibly begin the search for a new chief appraiser and name an interim to fill the void left by Cox’s resignation.
Several calls to contact Cox for comment following his decision to resign were not returned.