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Audit of LA County Assessor’s operation enters fourth month

By Brian Hews

A massive audit into the operations of the embattled Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office continued this week with accounting officials combing through countless financial records. The audit is now entering its fourth month, and all signals indicate that it could still be a while before the complex review is completed
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors called for the audit back in early April after Assessor John Noguez manufactured an alarmingly property tax forecast that Supervisors classified as “creating unexpected headaches for hard-pressed municipalities, school districts and public safety agencies that rely on the funding of the County.”
Noguez had disclosed to supervisors in the past that the county’s 2012-2013 property tax roll would likely generate only a fraction of the net increase he’d forecasted in December, dropping from $18 billion to just $5 billion.
Noguez at the time blamed the disparity on what he said was “a surprising plunge in property values during the final months of last year, with an average 5% tax reduction expected on more than 500,000 parcels.”
Supervisors didn’t agree with Noguez and demanded the massive audit commence “immediately.” Four months later, the review still lags on.
Noguez has since abandoned his day-to-day duties as the Assessor, and has been on a full paid leave of absence for the past month, and law enforcement officials are continuing a criminal investigation into alleged bribery, and other influence peddling allegations by law enforcement officials.
Schneiderman told LCCN on Wednesday in an interview that the audit “is progressing” and that his staff’s focus has been concentrated on three specific areas including a Fiscal Audit, a Management Audit, and a Parcel Property Audit.
The Fiscal Audit will determine the “overall business operations” of the Assessor’s office including payroll, cash handling and other day-to-day fiscal issues with the sprawling department that has more than 1600 employees.
County officials have contracted with an outside auditing firm, Strategica, which is headquartered in Washington State. “We needed additional outside assistance in determining the Management Audit of the Assessor’s operation,” Schneiderman said.
Also being reviewed is a sample of parcels that received more than a 20%, or larger reduction in assessed property values.
“This is taking time to complete,” Schneiderman said. He did not know when it would be completed saying “I can’t answer that question.”
The raids at Noguez office took place on April 26 and literally left hundreds of Assessor employees locked out of their offices for several hours. Some employees in the Assessor’s office were held in a secured basement location at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration.
The office is now overseen by Santos Kreimman, who was appointed by County Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka last month.

  • Joe Appraiser says:

    The Assessor’s office was a good ole boys club with upper management pulling the strings on the employee puppets. Once you became a puppet master your career was set, if not than the strings of control would never be set free.
    J.N. is getting what is due along with any other member that’s found guilty of negligence. Kudos to the employees coming forth and taking back an office that has been in the hands of a few greedy, power hungry good ole boys.
    Change is good and changing the management at the Assessor’s office is the best thing to happen for the employees in decades.

  • Chewy says:

    Mr editor please don’t get discouraged by negative comments made by people you exposed in connection with county assessor’s office, and i am glad La times did the right thing by removing that unwarranted attack on you and mr. Economy.