Assessor John Noguez, who is the target of a “pay-to-play” investigation, said today that he would take a voluntary leave of absence.
In a letter to the Board of Supervisors, Noguez said he wanted to restore “public confidence in the professionalism, integrity, and impartiality of the Assessor's Office.”
L.A. Weekly also learned today that the D.A.'s office has issued a grand jury subpoena to at least one witness in the case.
D.A. Steve Cooley called on Noguez to resign two weeks ago. Since then, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has been talking to Noguez in an effort to get him to step aside, at least temporarily.
“This is a positive development in the Assessor's Office,” Yaroslavsky said. “The Assessor's Office is under a cloud. The
decision by the assessor to take a leave of absence will allow the
office to breathe again.”
In a statement, Cooley called Noguez's decision “a step in the right direction.”
“Hopefully, this will help get the Assessor's Office back on track,” Cooley said. “It will have no impact on the criminal investigation being conducted by this office.”
Noguez asked the board to appoint a chief deputy, who will assume
the duties of the office while Noguez focuses on his defense. Noguez
said his leave will begin once the chief deputy is appointed.
Noguez will be continue to be paid while he is on leave, said his attorney, Michael Proctor. He makes $193,000 per year.
“Right now he's going to focus day by day on the circumstances of the investigation and the political climate,” Proctor said. “He's leaving open the idea that he might return under the right circumstances.”
Proctor said that Noguez was stepping aside “to support the office he has loved and served for over 27 years.”
Noguez's top lieutenant, George Renkei, has been working as chief of staff on an interim basis since Chris Carlos resigned in February as the investigation began to heat up.
The D.A.'s office opened an inquiry into Noguez and his relationship with tax agent Ramin Salari after receiving a complaint last November. As L.A. Weekly detailed in April, Noguez is accused of directing a friend and campaign supporter, Scott Schenter, to lower property values in hopes of reaping campaign contributions.
The D.A.'s office has searched Noguez's home, the assessor's office locations and Salari's home in Phoenix.
Yaroslavsky is asking the Board of Supervisors to seek the appointment of a temporary replacement for Noguez at its meeting on Wednesday.
Noguez Leave of Absence