L.A. County’s embattled tax assessor, who is under investigation on corruption charges, should step down, County Supervisor Michael Antonovich said Tuesday.
Antonovich was the first of the county’s five supervisors to demand that Assessor John Noguez resign. The Republican supervisor, who did not endorse Noguez when he was running for office, asked the board to take steps to appoint an interim assessor.
Noguez has been under investigation since last year on suspicion of lowering the tax bills of wealthy campaign contributors and other associates.
The investigation has heated up considerably over the last several days, coming to a head Monday with the arrest of a former tax appraiser accused of soliciting donations for Noguez and then giving the donors tax breaks.
“He thinks it would be in the best interest of the county taxpayers and the county to allow the investigation to proceed and let the board appoint somebody to serve in that position in the interim,” said Antonovich spokesman Tony Bell.
Noguez has maintained his innocence throughout the investigation, and refused to give up his job.
On Tuesday, he said through a spokesman that it would be inappropriate to comment on the case now that an arrest has been made.
But Bell said that the assessor’s continuing presence on the job was undermining public faith in the county’s property tax collection system.
“It spoils the public’s trust and faith in the assessor’s office, and you need to restore that faith as soon as possible,” Bell said.
County Supervisor Don Knabe, while not going so far as to call for Noguez’ resignation, said the assessor’s office is “surrounded by controversy, in large part due to the Assessor’s perceived inappropriate relationship” with a lawyer who helps clients lower their tax bills.
Knabe has asked the Board of Supervisors to require such lawyers to register themselves as lobbyists, so their actions are more easily tracked by regulators and the public.
Last week, District Attorney Steve Cooley also called on Noguez to resign, saying the corruption case was widening.