LA County assessor taking leave amid investigation

AP News
Posted: Jun 01, 2012 9:28 PM
LA County assessor taking leave amid investigation

Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez said Friday that he is taking a leave of absence amid a district attorney's investigation into allegations his office reduced property taxes for campaign contributors.

In a letter sent to the Board of Supervisors, Noguez said he was making the move to help restore public confidence in the office.

"My interest has been, and continues to be, the health and well-being of the office, which I am proud to have served for over twenty-seven years," Noguez wrote. "I do not take this decision lightly. Rather, I do this with the solemn hope that my leave of absence will allow the professionals at the Assessor's Office to continue to serve the taxpayers and citizens of this county."

He has not been charged with any crimes and has denied any wrongdoing.

Noguez asked the supervisors to appoint someone to the now-vacant deputy assessor position, at which point his leave would begin.

He would normally choose the deputy himself, but Noguez said he passed the decision to the board "to remove any possible concerns" over his influence.

Noguez will continue receiving his $192,000 annual salary during the leave, the Los Angeles Times reported.

District Attorney Steve Cooley called the move "a step in the right direction" but said it will have no influence on the criminal investigation of Noguez and his relationship with donors and a tax consultant.

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"Hopefully, this will help get the Assessor's Office back on track," Cooley said in a statement.

Several county supervisors also issued statements saying they believed the leave of absence was a good idea.

A former appraiser from Noguez's office, Scott Schenter, was charged last week with 60 felony counts that allege he falsified records and unlawfully reduced property values by more than $170 million while he worked for the assessor's office from 1988 to 2011.

Prosecutors said he secured campaign contributions for Noguez from the owners of multimillion-dollar homes and businesses.

Schenter has pleaded not guilty to all 60 counts.