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By Randy Economy
Los Cerritos Community Newspaper Group
(Note: This is part of an ongoing series of investigative articles by Los Cerritos Community Newspaper on the activities inside the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office. This article was first published in March, 2012. It has been included into LCCN’s “Noguez Timeline” due to several requests from our readers).
(Los Angeles, CA) In a stinging rebuke, members of the California Association of Professional Employees, AFL-CIO have told embattled Los Angeles County Assessor John R. Noguez that they have lost confidence his ability to oversee the management and operation of the complex agency that is now the center of at least two investigations by law enforcement agencies.
Los Cerritos Community News has obtained two formal letters from CAPE Board President Carlos Clayton, and CAPE Attorney Blaine J. Meek that blasts Noguez about his “improper intervention by Assessor’s officials in the appraisal process, and inappropriate access allowed tax representatives.”
LCCN was the first news agency to report on the investigation of Noguez in early February. Since then several major daily newspapers, television news programs, and radio talk shows have picked up on the mounting legal problems facing Noguez.
On December 30, 2011 CAPE Attorney Meek sent a formal letter to Noguez to “convey the growing concerns of our Appraiser members regarding some recent perceived impropriates by your management.”
“We are sure you are aware that our Appraiser members care deeply about their work and reputation for fairness and integrity,” Meek states. “Our Board (CAPE) is very concerned about the growing perception among our Appraiser members that several outside property tax agents have been given too much access and influence, and that some Assessor’s office executives are inappropriately intervening in the valuation process which jeopardizes the impartiality and integrity of the office.”
“We know that you (Noguez) will also share the pride our Appraiser members take in their work, therefore, we know you will understand our additional requests that your Executive Staff and Management the temptation to mischaracterize this perception. Its cause, or any underlying problems as stemming from poorly trained staff or lack of experience or Appraiser personnel,” states Meek. “The limited information we have confirmed underlying our Appraiser, its’ members perception does not support such a rationalization.”
The union attorney, Meek, goes to tell Noguez that he has thirty days to formally respond to his employees concerns.
Thirty days later, on January 30th, 2012, Noguez formally responded to Meeks letter.
“In response to your letter of 12-30-11, wherein you express concerns on behalf of the CAPE Board of Directors ‘perceived improprieties’ by my Management. Rest assured, I take such perceptions very seriously whether founded or not. Since our conversations regarding these concerns, in late December, the following actions have been taken to address these perceptions,” Noguez said.
“In order to establish a more efficient Executive Management structure, I have appointed my Chief Deputy Dr. Chris Carlos to function as my Chief of Staff. This action took effect January 26, 2012. This structure will provide clearly defined roles within the department that will support staff at all levels and facilitate consistent adherence to the organizational chain of command.” Noguez states.
“It will also allow me to focus on broad departmental policies and issues while Dr. Carlos handles the day to day operations of the department. Dr. Carlos has an extensive back ground in organization leadership and is dedicated to enhancing operations and the overall professionalism of the department,” Noguez affirms.
“On January 16, 2012, I implemented an organizational realignment of Assessment Services, shifting it from Major Properties to Roll Services. This places the oversight of the Assessment Appeals Board (AAB’s) Section under the administration Division, providing some important ‘checks and balances’ for the appeals process.”
“An open and honest evaluation of the process, including perceptions, relationships between department personnel and outside parties, logistics and other AAB’s issue is ongoing and further adjustments will be made as necessary.”
“On January 17th, 2012, I appointed Patrick Gibson to Special Assistant. Patrick will serve as the Executive Office Liaison to all employee groups within the department. His focus will be on developing and enhancing positive relationship between various personnel groups by facilitating effective communications and understanding of the unique challenges of each position in the department,” Noguez said.
The Assessor goes on to declare that “I remain committed to my elected office and my mission to provide the best possible Assessment services to the people of Los Angeles County and a work environment for all department personnel that promotes high employee morale. Accordingly I am continually considering strategic changes that will improve department operations and appreciate and value CAPE’s feedback during this ongoing process.”
CAPE President Carlos Clayton blasted Noguez in a letter dated February 22, 2012, Los Cerritos Community News has learned exclusively.
“We appreciate your timely response to our letter of December 30, 2011, regarding the concerns of our Members have about (newspaper) reports of improper intervention by the Assessor’s officials in the Appraisal process, and inappropriate access allowed to tax representatives.” Clayton continues, “Our Board has reviewed your letter, the materials distributed to all employees, and we have monitored the response of our members.”
“With all due respect and understanding of your situation, we have concluded that the steps you have taken fall short of preventing the kind of inappropriate interventions and inappropriate access that have been reported. Likewise, as evidenced in recent press coverage and your statement to the media on the issues we conclude that you response is insignificant to put an end to the perceptions of impropriates in the Assessor’s Office. “
“CAPE Members want nothing more than to restore the publics’ confidence in their hard work and dedication to accurate and timely appraisals. We will support any steps that effectively restore the public’s confidence in our (CAPE) members work,” the union leader exclaims. “We expect you to do whatever is necessary toward this end,” Clayton concludes.
LCCN was first to report that Noguez accepted the abrupt resignation of Dr. Carlos late last week on Wednesday, February 29th, just days after CAPE’s harsh letter and continuing coverage from LCCN and other news sources. In that memo to his employees Noguez said that he accepted the resignation of Carlos on Monday, February 27th. Since then another political ally, Deputy Assessor George Renkei has been named as his new Chief of Staff.
Renkei made a $1,000 contribution to Noguez’es assessor campaign on July 20, 2010 and has been a staunch public support of the Assessor.
Noguez turned the reigns of America’s largest county government property assessment agency to Carlos, a former political operative of a San Gabriel Valley based trash recycling business, just months after his election in November of 2010. In documents obtained by Los Cerritos Community News, Noguez radically redrew the organizational chart of the Assessor’s office and gave Carlos the top administrative position.
Before joining Noguez, Carlos was the former head of Government Affairs at Athens Disposal Services.
Further, LCCN was first to report that Carlos had no professional experience in the field of tax management or as a professional appraiser prior to his hiring. Carlos was being paid a monthly salary and benefit package of more than $16,000 per month.
Carlos immediately began changing the infrastructure of the Assessor’s office after his installation and according to several sources turned “the office into a political campaign operation for John’s future political ambitions.” Noguez has refused countless interview requests by Los Cerritos Community News.
–Copyright. 2012. Permission to republish granted with proper attribution given to Los Cerritos Community Newspaper, Randy Economy Reporter; www.loscerritosnews.net 562 407-3873
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