LA County Assessor to Take Leave of Absence Amid Scandal

"In the interest of restoring public confidence in the professionalism, integrity and impartiality of the Assessor's Office, I intend to take a leave of absence from my duties as assessor,'' wrote John Noguez

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez -- whose office is the target of a corruption probe by the District Attorney's Office -- announced Friday that he will be taking a voluntary leave of absence, according to the county. Conan Nolan reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on June 1, 2012. (Published Friday, Jun 1, 2012)

    Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez -- whose office is the target of a corruption probe by the District Attorney's Office -- announced Friday that he will be taking a voluntary leave of absence, according to the county.

    "In the interest of restoring public confidence in the professionalism, integrity and impartiality of the Assessor's Office, I intend to take a leave of absence from my duties as assessor,'' Noguez wrote in a letter to the Board of Supervisors. "I do not take this decision lightly."

    Document: John Noguez's Letter to the Board (PDF)

    Noguez will continue to receive his regular paycheck, which in 2011 included a base pay of $192,000, the Los Angeles Times reported.

    Noguez, who was elected in November 2010, is under investigation for allegedly giving favorable tax assessments to wealthy campaign contributors and other associates.

    Last month, scrutiny intensified when a former Assessor's Office appraiser, Scott Schenter, was arrested and charged with slashing the values -- and tax bills -- of properties in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades in exchange for donations to Noguez's campaign.

    County Supervisor Michael Antonovich and District Attorney Steve Cooley have both called for Noguez's resignation.

    Cooley released a statement saying Noguez's decision was "a step in the right direction."

    "Hopefully, this will help get the Assessor’s Office back on track," Cooley said. "It will have no impact on the criminal investigation being conducted by this office. The investigation is ongoing, multi-faceted and active."

    Antonovich also released a statement applauding the leave of absence, as did Supervisor Don Knabe. Both supervisors are Republicans, as is Cooley; Noguez is a Democrat.

    "This action, and the appointment of an interim director to manage daily operations and functions, begins the process of restoring the public’s confidence and trust in the office," Antonovich said.

    Ordinarily, the assessor's position would be filled by the chief deupty assessor -- but that position is vacant.

    Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said in a statement Friday that he wanted the board to ask Chief Executive Officer William T. Fujioka to recommend candidates for the deputy position, and that the board discuss the matter in open session.

    In his letter to the board, Noguez asked that the board fill the deputy position without his input to remove "any possible concerns" relating to the selection of a candidate.

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