Monday, June 4, 2012
Embattled County Assessor John Noguez to Take Leave of Absence
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez said Friday he will take a leave of absence amid allegations his office lowered property taxes for campaign contributors.
“In the interest of restoring public confidence in the professionalism, integrity, and impartiality of the Assessor’s Office, I intend to take a leave of absence from my duties as Assessor,” Noguez wrote to the Board of Supervisors. “I do not take this decision lightly. It is my sincere hope that the leave of absence will allow the Assessor’s Office to adhere to its mission during this important time.”
Noguez, the assessor since 2010, has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged thus far in connection with the probe being conducted by District Attorney Steve Cooley’s office. He said Friday that he had “consistently offered my cooperation with this investigation as well as the full cooperation of the Assessor’s Office.”
Cooley, who has previously called for the assessor to resign, based upon what the ongoing investigation has already uncovered, told the Associated Press that the leave of absence is a step in the right direction, but will have no effect on the investigation of Noguez and his relationship with donors and a tax consultant.
A former appraiser from Noguez’s office, Scott Schenter, pled not guilty to 60 felony counts of falsifying records and unlawfully lowering property values. The taxpayers who benefited from the reductions, Cooley has charged, were donors to Noguez’s campaign fund.
Because the chief deputy assessor’s position is vacant, it will be necessary to fill that post so that its occupant can become acting assessor, Noguez pointed out. While the power to appoint a chief deputy is his by law, Noguez said he would appoint whomever the Board of Supervisors nominates, and would play no role in the selection process.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said he would offer a motion today calling on the chief executive officer to recommend one or more persons for consideration by the board to serve as acting assessor.
Supervisor Don Knabe issued a statement supporting Noguez’s decision to step aside for the time being.
“Over the last several weeks, the Los Angeles District Attorney has been investigating very serious allegations made against the County’s Assessor, John Noguez, and other department officials,” Knabe said. “While this investigation is underway, it is critical that stability is maintained for the Assessor’s office and operations. As such, I am pleased that Mr. Noguez is stepping aside while the DA completes this investigation.”
Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine also issued a statement saying he was glad the assessor would take a leave of absence. Zine, who noted that reduced assessments have a significant effect on the revenues of the city, which is dependent on property taxes, had introduced a motion in the council, along with Councilman Paul Krekorian, calling on Noguez to step aside during the probe.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company