Assessor's stepping aside ‘not enough,’ ex-chief appraiser says
A former high-ranking appraiser said Friday that Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez's decision to step aside amid a wide-ranging probe of influence peddling at his office was "long overdue and not enough."
Ex-Chief Appraiser John Dortch, who claims he retired two years early because of the "improper influence" of the Noguez administration, said the assessor should resign.
"He has lost the trust of the employees and the public," Dortch said. "In my opinion, Mr. Noguez and his administration should be replaced as soon as possible so that the integrity of the office and public trust can be restored."
Dortch was among the employees from the assessor's Sylmar office who filed a formal complaint in October that alleged that Noguez had sent three top officials from his downtown headquarters to "chastise" a low-level appraiser.
The appraiser had disagreed with the value of a property represented by Ramin Salari, a tax agent who has made a fortune by winning huge property tax reductions for millionaire property owners.
Salari is also under investigation. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Noguez has denied any wrongdoing.
In a statement released Friday, he said it was best for the assessor's office that he step aside.
"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," Noguez wrote in a letter to the county's Board of Supervisors. "I do not take this decision lightly."
Noguez did not say how long he would stay away, but he offered to begin his leave as soon as the board appoints a caretaker.
Sources close to Noguez say at least one county supervisor has been in negotiations with former Assessor Rick Auerbach to fill the role. Auerbach told The Times: "If I can help, I'd like to help." The board is scheduled to discuss the matter Wednesday.
-- Ruben Vives, Jack Dolan and Jason Song
Photo: Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times