Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Jeffrey Prang, Candidate for Assessor, Seeks to Flimflam
By ROGER M. GRACE
Jeffrey Prang, competing with Deputy District Attorney John Morris for election as Los Angeles County assessor, is playing games with words.
A Prang press release, issued late Monday, announces an endorsement of him by the Los Angeles lodge of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance. It proclaims that the “membership of CACA has unanimously endorsed” him.
Where the circumstance arises that every member of a non-political organization has endorsed a particular candidate, it’s impressive. But in this instance, it didn’t happen.
The entire membership was not canvassed. A vote was taken at the monthly meeting on Aug. 2.
Eugene W. Moy, president of the lodge (and vice president of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California), who is supporting Prang, says he “cannot misrepresent the vote.” Responding to my inquiry, he advises, in an e-mail:
“We always have to be careful with the use of superlatives like ‘unanimous.’ While the great majority of those members present (30 attending, out of about 200 dues paying members) voted in favor of the endorsement, there were one or two abstentions.”
“It would be sufficient to simply state that the Chinese American Citizens Alliance-Los Angeles voted to endorse Mr. Prang at its August regular monthly meeting.”
That’s how a direct and truthful man such as Moy would phrase it. That’s not what Prang’s press release says.
For a motion to be carried at a meeting, not attended by all members, is a far cry from the entire membership concurring in the stance, as the press release portrays.
That press release continues:
“Jeff Prang has played a pivotal role in the stabilization and reform of the Assessor’s Office in the wake of the scandal that shook the Office when Assessor John Noguez was indicted on corruption charges. In 2012, Mr. Prang orchestrated Noguez’ exit from the Office….”
Noguez did “exit” his “office” in the sense of relinquishing the room in the Hall of Administration in which he had a desk and conducted business. But he did not abandon the “office,” in the sense of the governmental post to which he was elected.
In capitalizing “office,” and using the word in a sentence following one in which reference is made to the “Assessor’s Office,” the impression is conveyed that Noguez resigned from office, and that Prang brought that about.
In fact, while awaiting trial on 36 felony counts, Noguez has been on a paid leave of absence. Since June, 2012, he’s been receiving his salary—which, with a $5,000 cost-of-living boost while he’s been idle, is now $201,392 a year, plus benefits.
If this was, in fact, “orchestrated” by Prang, it’s nothing to crow about.
The press release also says:
“Mr. Prang, a Councilmember and four-time Mayor of West Hollywood, won the Primary Election on June 3rd and is seeking final confirmation by way of the November 4th General Election.”
Oh? If he had “won” the election in the primary, he would not be facing Morris in a run-off.
While he did receive the greatest number of votes of all the 12 contestants, he did not bag 50 percent of the ballots plus one, which is what it would have taken to have “won.” He pulled 18 percent; Morris drew 16 percent.
I’ve never heard reference to campaign activity in a run-off election as “seeking final confirmation.” Clearly, Prang is seeking to create an illusion that he won in June and there’s some sort of formality in November by way of voters affirming the decision they already made.
This is an effort at flimflamming.
That’s just what Prang attempted to do in the primary. For his ballot designation, he put down “Los Angeles County Deputy Assessor.” The problem is that he doesn’t assess the value of any properties, as the title implies. In March of 2012, he was brought in to assist Assessor John Noguez with public relations—something Noguez desperately needed when charges of accepting bribes surfaced, followed by his indictment.
Prang is no more a “deputy assessor” than Sarah Ardalani, public information officer for the District Attorney’s Office, is a “deputy district attorney.”
Although appraisers in the Assessor’s Office do not formally have the title of “deputy assessors,” they are sometimes referred to as such—and the office might well choose to so denominate them officially; the county charter provides for the office of “chief deputy assessor,” implying that there are deputy assessors. In any event, use of the title “Los Angeles County Deputy Assessor,” as applied to a public relations consultant who does not assess property values, and could not lawfully do so without gaining a license, is bound to “mislead the voter.” Under Elections Code §13107(b), such a designation must be disallowed.
A rival candidate in the primary, Omar Haroon, who does perform appraisals in the office, sought a writ of mandate, ordering the registrar-recorder to bump Prang’s chosen ballot designation. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant granted the writ.
He allowed the designation of “Special Assistant, Assessor.”
This is, by the way, the same Jeffrey Prang who, in 1999, had too much to drink one night and groped an employee in a bar in Portland. His public apology was televised on a local cable television channel.
BEFUDDLED DUO—Prang’s ballot designation, being patently misleading, should not have been permitted by the Registrar-Recorder’s Office. That office did allow it, over a challenge, with the Office of County Counsel saying it was fine and dandy.
There were five court challenges to ballot designations this year, four of which succeeded. The one that didn’t—decided by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin—should have. Lavin allowed a former volunteer extern in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, seeking election to a judgeship, to be billed as “Los Angeles Prosecutor.”
The ultimate responsibility for the foul-ups belongs to Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan and outgoing County Counsel John Krattli. But those who did the actual bungling were Alex Olvera, division manager in the Election Information and Preparation Section of Logan’s office, and Deputy County Counsel Vicki Kozikoujekian.
Kozikoujekian told Lavin that any error is on the side of honoring a candidate’s choice of designation.
Error, if any, should be on the side of the electorate, I would think. Sparing voters misapprehensions based on crafty and confusing titles should be the primary objective.
Anyway, none of the error on the part of Olvera and Kozikoujekian caused harm. Their acceptance of Prang’s preferred designation was countermanded. Three judicial candidates who tried to use phony ballot designations—including the part-time filing deputy in the District Attorney’s Office who claimed the title of “Violent Crimes Prosecutor”—were blocked by judges who granted writs. (All three lost in the primary.) And despite Lavin’s loony ruling, the admiralty lawyer who was listed as “Los Angeles Prosecutor” came in third among three candidates.
STEIN, TOO—Criminal defense lawyer Andrew Stein, who finished first in the primary in a three-way race for a Los Angeles Superior Court open seat, claims on his Facebook page to be “Winner of The June Primary!”
He, like Prang, is making a false claim. There was no winner in the primary.
Stein is in a run-off with Deputy City Attorney Tom Griego.
Copyright 2014, Metropolitan News Company