Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Two Council Members Call for Independent Review of Property Reassessments in Wake of D.A. Probe
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Two Los Angeles City Council members yesterday introduced a resolution calling on the county to conduct on independent review of properties within the county that received a property reassessment that reduced their values by more than 20 percent since December 2010.
That probe is necessary, Dennis P. Zine and Paul Krekorian said, in light of the investigation of Assessor John Noguez and his office by District Attorney Steve Cooley and the district attorney’s Public Integrity Division.
Cooley has called on Noguez to resign in light of what the investigation has revealed so far, but the assessor said through a spokesman that his office is cooperating with the probe and that he has no intention of stepping down. Zine said in a statement after yesterday’s council meeting that Noguez should take a leave of absence while the investigation—which reportedly focuses on more than 100 properties—is continuing.
The resolution comes one day after the arrest of a former appraiser accused of falsifying documents and unlawfully lowering property values by $172 million. Prosecutors claim that Scott Schenter, who worked as an appraiser from 1988 to early 2011, slashed values on valuable homes and businesses and secured campaign contributions for Noguez from the owners.
Noguez was elected assessor in November 2010 and took office the following month, hence the selection of December 2010 as the date from which questionable appraisals should be looked at, Zine and Krekorian said in their statement.
The resolution notes that the city receives 30 percent of collections from the one percent of assessed value taxed in the city, and that property taxes are the largest source of city revenues, totaling 20.9 percent of general fund monies received. Reductions in assessments therefore have a critical impact on the city’s ability to provide crucial services, the council members said in the resolution, which was referred to to the Rules, Elections, and Intergovernmental Relations Committee.
Zine, chair of the Audits & Governmental Efficiency Committee, said in his statement:
“Honesty, transparency, integrity, and trust need to be restored to the Office of the County Assessor. I have some serious concerns about the potential funds that the City may have been cheated out of if these accusations turn out to be true. These funds could have gone to support critical functions of this City. Our concerns need to be laid to rest by having an independent review of the properties in question.”
Krekorian, who chairs the Budget & Finance Committee, said:
“Yesterday, we finished putting together an extraordinarily difficult budget that requires more cutbacks in city services and more hardship for the citizens of Los Angeles and the city workforce that serves them. At a time when all local governments are facing challenges to maintain public safety and other core services, we cannot afford to allow even a penny of tax revenues to be improperly uncollected. The pending investigations surrounding the County Assessor’s office raise serious questions about whether the people of Los Angeles have been cheated out of revenues to which they’re entitled. Only a truly independent review can resolve those questions and ensure that taxpayers who play by the rules and comply with the law receive fair and equitable treatment.”
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company