Assessor John Noguez has agreed to take a leave of absence pending the outcome of a D.A. investigation into corruption allegations. But Noguez is still clinging to the prerogatives of his office, and is not giving up on the possibility of a return.
Noguez made that clear on Tuesday, when county chief executive Bill Fujioka issued a press release announcing his selection for Noguez's temporary replacement, Santos Kreimann. In the release, Kreimann was described as the "Interim Assessor." But the release was revised hours later, after Noguez objected to the word "interim."
The revised release said that Kreimann was "expected to act as the Department head in the Assessor's absence." So what's the difference between that and being the "Interim Assessor"? A lot, if you're John Noguez.
It's important to Noguez that Kreimann not have any sort of title that suggests that Noguez is no longer the Assessor. If Kreimann is the "Interim Assessor," then that might mean that he's running the office between two different administrations. Instead, Noguez wants to call Kreimann his "chief deputy."
He also wants to make it clear that he, not the Board of Supervisors, has the authority to appoint his chief deputy -- though he has already agreed to appoint whoever the board recommends.
The original press release from Fujioka's office stated that Noguez will go on leave when "the Board of Supervisors fills the currently vacant position of Chief Deputy Assessor." After Noguez raised objections, the release was revised to say that Noguez will go on leave when "the Board of Supervisors submits to him their recommendation for Chief Deputy Assessor and he makes the appointment."
Semantics? Yes. But Noguez he wants everybody to remember that he's an independently elected official -- even as the Board of Supervisors has forced him to temporarily step aside.
"It's just John's word that he would do this to the Board of Supervisors," said Noguez's spokesman, Louis Reyes. "Nothing can stop him from changing his mind and coming back whenever he chooses."
Update: Reyes clarifies that Noguez has no intention of changing his mind, and every intention of keeping his word to the Board of Supervisors. Reyes' point, he says, was that Noguez has taken the unprecedented step of voluntarily agreeing to take a leave of absence.