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John Noguez Scandal Prompts State Legislation To Treat Tax Agents As Lobbyists

Noguez, whose home and office were searched two weeks ago, supports the measure, said assessor's spokesman Louis Reyes. Noguez's office has already drafted proposed tax agent regulations and sent them to Supervisor Gloria Molina for consideration at the Board of Supervisors.

The draft regulations would require tax agents to register with the county, would forbid them from making campaign contributions to any county elected official. They would also bar tax agents from giving gifts worth more than $50 to county employees. Tax agents would also have to make annual reports to the county listing their clients.

Molina, however, has decided to hold off on introducing the proposed ordinance, and no other supervisor has offered to take it up. The supervisors recently asked for an audit of the assessor's revenue projections, after those numbers came in lower than expected. The D.A. is also continuing to investigate Noguez's office, which has made county supervisors wary of getting too closely involved.

"We want to wait until all the facts are in," said Roxane Marquez, Molina's spokeswoman.

Gatto (D-Silver Lake) said he had been prompted to introduce the legislation after reading coverage in the Weekly and elsewhere.

"This might be one of those cases where the locals are too close to the problem, and it's appropriate for a state official to step in and get some sort of uniformity statewide," he said.

Update: In a statement, Noguez expresses full support for Gatto's bill, which he calls "long overdue and a much needed reform."

Noguez notes that since the housing crash, the tax agent business has "grown quickly and without oversight." He says that Gatto's bill would address "concerns about transparency and accountability," and touts his own proposal to Molina.

Meanwhile, Peter Kotschedoff, the president of the California Alliance of Taxpayer Advocates, says it's too soon to start responding to the scandal with broad policy changes.

"CATA believes it would be premature for any action to be taken until the District Attorney investigation, the L. A. County Auditor-Controller audit and the State Board of Equalization regular survey are concluded," Kotschedoff says in a written statement.

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