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Union warns LA County Assessor employees to avoid talking with investigators & media

By Brian Hews
A highly controversial memo from union leaders with the California Association of Professional Employees (CAPE-AFL-CIO) has sparked outrage and heated exchanges between rank and file employees and management inside the Los Angeles County Assessor’s office this week as the growing corruption probe by law enforcement appears to be heading to a Grand Jury within days.
This week hundreds of assessor employees received an email from union officials under the heading “CAPE Assessor’s Members Special Edition.” “Reports of Outside Investigations and Organizations Changes Require CAPE Members to Know Their Rights.”
It is marked as “confidential content for CAPE Assessor Members ONLY. Not for Publication or Recirculation.” Los Cerritos Community Newspaper and the Los Angeles Times have been sent copies of the memo, and LAT’s Reporters Ruben Vives and Jack Dolan highlighted the contents of the memo in its Wednesday edition.
The memo reads as follows:
“Reports of outside investigations and recent organizational changes in the Assessor’s Office have caused many CAPE members to seek additional information regarding their workplace rights.”
“For example, what should you do if you are contacted by a news reporter? What should you do if you witness or are asked to participate in actions you believe to be improper? Or, how should you respond if you are asked to be interviewed by investigators as a potential witness to improper conduct?”
“CAPE members careers are our highest priority. If you encounter any of the following potentially difficult circumstances, please follow CAPE’s recommendations below to protect your career and always call CAPE as soon as possible for assistance.”
“CAPE’s advice in response to incidents that you believe involved improper behavior or action (including the lowering of a valuation).
1. Document the incident (date, time, location, who was present, [potential witnesses], what occurred, who said what).
2. Call CAPE immediately for analysis and options.
In instances in which you believe you are being directed to inappropriately lower a value:
3. Refuse without a written order to do so.
4. If you receive a written order to do so, comply and immediately call CAPE with details for advice.
CAPE’s advice in response to being contacted by the District Attorney’s Office for an interview asking questions or requesting documents:
1. Refuse to answer any questions or provide and information or documents to a District Attorney’s representative without a written order of the Assessor’s Office to comply. (Protects you from having the District Attorney use any of your statements against you).
2. Document the incident details as stated in the prior section above.
3. Email your chain of supervision/management notifying them of the incident details and what your response was to the District Attorney’s representative. (Protects your career).
4. Call CAPE for advice.
CAPE’s advice in response to being contacted by a County (Investigatory Unit of the Assessor’s Human Resources for an interview or requesting documents:
1. Document all details of the request.
2. Call CAPE immediately for advice.
3. If the request is for an interview demand CAPE representation for the interview.
CAPE’s advice in response to being contacted by the media for an interview/asking questions or requesting documents:
Refer all media inquiries to the Assessor’s Executive Office per policy (Administrative Memorandum #2005-107) (Protects you from being subject to discipline for violating of this policy).
CAPE’s advice if you have any information you wish to voluntarily provide to the District Attorney’s Office for an investigation:
Please call CAPE immediately. We will facilitate you doing so.
If you have any questions or concerns about CAPE’s advice and/or how to exercise your workshop rights, please call CAPE immediately. We are here to serve you.”

The memo is not signed by any specific member of CAPE. Los Cerritos Community Newspaper called Blaine Meek who is the legal representative to the union for comment about the union directive, but did not return repeated telephone calls.
Several rank and file employees spoke to LCCN about the memo on Wednesday and said that “angry verbal arguments” erupted between union leaders and members over the memo.
“If any Union boss tells me not to cooperate with members of the district attorney, they have another thing coming to them,” one long time employee who works in the Assessor’s main executive office in the Hall of Administration.
“This is every man and woman for themselves now. People are trying to cover their you-know-what and backtracking. This just adds more fuel to the fire and is outrageous,” one long time Assessor employee told LCCN on the condition that their name not be revealed or published.
“We are all not going down with the ship,” another long time employee told LCCN.
“How do you think we got into this situation in the first place?”