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Elected or Appointed Assessor? Voters to Decide in November

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday adopted a resolution to ask voters if they support changing the state constitution to make the job of assessor an appointed, rather than elected, position.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich championed the issue. The District Attorney’s Office is investigating allegations that employees of the county assessor’s office worked hand-in-hand with tax agents to reduce property valuations in exchange for campaign contributions.

County Assessor John Noguez, who has claimed no wrongdoing, is on an indefinite leave.

A former appraiser, Scott Schenter – who allegedly dropped property values in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades by about $172 million — was arrested in May. Schenter told the Los Angeles Times that Noguez had promised him a promotion and pressured him to extract campaign contributions. Schenter then unilaterally dropped the recorded values of some properties in order to help spur donations, he told the newspaper.

Schenter’s alleged illegal activities may have been going on for nearly a decade – well before Noguez won election in November 2010.

On July 31, appraisers in the assessor’s office offered a union vote of “no confidence” in Noguez. About one-third of the 387 members represented by the California Association of Professional Employees returned ballots, and 92 percent of those voting favored Noguez’ resignation, according to CAPE.

The California Constitution and the Los Angeles County charter would both need to be changed in order to give the Board of Supervisors the authority to appoint future assessors.

In a statewide vote in 1986, about 85 percent of voters favored elections as a means of selecting county assessors.