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Assessor Chief of Staff resigns amid controversy

Original post Feb 27, 2012

Embattled Los Angeles County Assessor John R. Noguez has accepted the resignation of his chief of staff Chris Carlos, EdD. Los Cerritos Community News has learned exclusively.
In a memo to his employees on Wednesday morning at 8:46 a.m., Noguez said that he accepted the resignation of Carlos on Monday. Noguez has named another political ally, Deputy Assessor George Renkei as his top administrator to replace the controversial Carlos.{{more}}
Renkei is also a contributor to Noguez political campaigns according to filings with the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters office.
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.
Noguez hired Carlos in June of 2011. LCCN has confirmed that Athens trash hauling executive earned $1,000 a month more than longtime Deputy Assessor Eric Haagenson who was hired back in 1972, and $4,000 more than Major Real Property Chief Appraiser Mark McNeil, who was hired in 1987. Haagenson, Carlos, McNeill and Renkei are all contributors to Noguez political campaign accounts.
Carlos immediately began changing the infrastructure of the Assessor’s office and according to several sources turned “the office into a political campaign operation for John’s future political ambitions.”
On February 7th, Carlos fired off an email to every employee to assessor office employees reminding them “wherein Assessor Noguez reminded all personnel to be diligent in valuing property at its fair market value, in accordance to the law, regardless of a property owner’s relationship with the Assessor.”
Carlos goes on to state in the email that “in keeping with this directive, if any tax payer representative has communicated expectations of special treatment related to any case with the Assessor’s office, please immediately forward to me the substance of that communication, along with the name of the party and the case number involved, through “your chain of command.”
“Our code of ethics requires the maintenance of integrity and propriety in all departments’ matters and any behavior that may compromise the ability of the department to carry out its lawful function will be appropriately addressed,” the memo is signed by Carlos and ends with the note “thank you for your cooperation in the matter.”
Noguez and his office are now involved in at least two active probes by law enforcement officials, including the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office of Public Integrity. Noguez has denied any “wrongdoing” in several press reports including in the Los Angeles Times.
Assessor Press Secretary Louis Reyes has refused comment to Los Cerritos Community News about the ongoing developments inside the operation of the Assessor, but lashed out on his personal blog about the critical coverage of this newspaper as being “politically biased.” Reyes is also a political consultant and Regional Director of the California Democratic Party.
“…the Los Angeles County Assessor’s office does not consider the Los Cerritos News a legitimate news source. We have spoke to both the editor and publisher of Los Cerritos News about our concerns of biased reporting and the printing of articles that are based on anonymous comments on confidential personnel matters; misconstrued statements, and falsely led innuendos to the public. The Assessor’s office will no longer speak to the Los Cerritos News given all of our concerns, but welcomes any other legitimate media outlets to speak on any matters of concern,” Reyes states on his blog.
On Wednesday, Ramin Salari, the tax agent at the center of a district attorney’s probe, fought back against allegations that he wields undue influence over Noguez.
At a tax appeal hearing at the county Hall of Administration regarding a property in Hermosa Beach, Salari appeared and took direct aim at his detractors and specifically former appraiser David Zoraster. As reported by LCCN Zoraster quit the office in December in protest of Salari’s alleged influence over Noguez and over the appraisal process.
During the hearing on Wednesday, LA Weekly reported that Salari challenged Zoraster’s appraisal methods, and “appeared to win over the two-member panel that sits in judgment of tax appeals.”
“At one point, Salari mocked Zoraster as ‘the appraisal God of the office,’ LA Weekly reporter Gene Maddaus said in on line article on Thursday.
Zoraster is now working for his former employer CB Ellis. LCCN contacted his firm and was told that he would not “be available for media interviews.”

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