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California Assemblyman Gatto blasts Noguez, Salari relationship; Seeks restrictions between assessors and ‘so-called tax agents’

By Brian Hews

As a result of a massive criminal probe into suspected “pay to play” practices deep inside the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office, lawmakers in Sacramento have decided that “enough is enough.”

This week, Assemblyman Mike Gatto of Los Angeles introduced AB 404 that would require tax consultants such as Ramin Salari, one of the central players in a wide sweeping criminal probe of influence peddling with Assessor John Noguez, to be required to disclose to the media and public the “exact nature” of their business dealings.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto

This week, Assemblyman Mike Gatto of Los Angeles introduced AB 404 that would require tax consultants such as Ramin Salari, one of the central players in a wide sweeping criminal probe of influence peddling with Assessor John Noguez, to be required to disclose to the media and public the “exact nature” of their business dealings. his week, Assemblyman Mike Gatto of Los Angeles introduced AB 404 that would require tax consultants such as Ramin Salari, one of the central players in a wide sweeping criminal probe of influence peddling with Assessor John Noguez, to be required to disclose to the media and public the “exact nature” of their business dealings.

Gatto told Los Cerritos Community Newspaper in an interview from Sacramento on Wednesday that the bill was a “simple premise, due to the situation in Los Angeles County.”

It would also, in many cases, prevent tax agents from making campaign contributions to Assessors, who then hear the tax agents’ clients’ cases.

Salari has been tied to tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions to Noguez during the past decade that goes back to when Noguez was moonlighting as a city council member in the City of Huntington Park and working during the daytime as a Property Appraiser Specialist in the assessor’s office.

Gatto told LCCN that the “relationship between Noguez and Salari and other tax agents is a recipe for disaster.”

“It is unwise policy to allow these so-called ‘tax-agents’ to lobby assessors in the backrooms of government with no disclosure,” said Gatto.

“We should treat those who lobby County Assessors the same as those who lobby County Supervisors, requiring a modicum of disclosure and setting certain ground rules on what is and is not acceptable conduct.”

Gatto also praised the efforts of Los Cerritos Community Newspaper for “bringing this issue to the forefront.”

“If it wasn’t for Los Cerritos Community Newspaper, the public and the rest of the media would have had no idea about the current crisis inside the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office,” Gatto said.

Gatto, a Democrat, said he has not had any contact with Noguez about the legislation and he “doesn’t plan to.”

“I never supported or endorsed the guy (Noguez) in the first place.”

He also stressed that “AB 404 would not affect property owners who advocate on their own behalf, nor would it take away local control for counties to amend the fine points of their lobbying ordinances.”

Gatto has been working with the California Association of Professional Employees, which represents more than 3000 of Los Angeles County’s professional employees, “including those who work hard to assess properties, only to see their work undone at times by the well-connected people like Salari to provide increased transparency in the process.”

It would also, in many cases, prevent tax agents from making campaign contributions to Assessors, who then hear the tax agents’ clients’ cases.

“It is unwise policy to allow these so-called ‘tax-agents’ to lobby assessors in the backrooms of government with no disclosure,” said Gatto.  “We should treat those who lobby County Assessors the same as those who lobby County Supervisors, requiring a modicum of disclosure and setting certain ground rules on what is and is not acceptable conduct.”

He also said that AB 404 would not affect property owners who advocate on their own behalf, nor would it take away local control for counties to amend the fine points of their lobbying ordinances.

“This common-sense solution will allow the public to know who is paying whom to lobby their elected Assessors.  It makes sense that these individuals, who often obtain multi-million-dollar benefits for their clients, have to live by the same rules as other lobbyists,” Gatto said.

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One Response to California Assemblyman Gatto blasts Noguez, Salari relationship; Seeks restrictions between assessors and ‘so-called tax agents’

  1. jchurchill Reply

    May 11, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    If independent tax agents are subject to restrictions, corporate tax agents (corporate employees) should be treated the same. In a lot of cases, these people have corrupted the system to a greater extent than the independents have. They have lots of money available to make campaign contributions.

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