The L.A. County D.A.'s Office has opened an inquiry into Montebello Councilman Jack Hadjinian, who accepted a $5,000 contribution from tax agent Ramin Salari last year, while serving on the county's Assessment Appeals Board.
The D.A.'s Office has been looking into an alleged pay-to-play scandal at the Assessor's Office since late last year. The D.A.'s Office is investigating whether Salari improperly obtained property tax breaks in exchange for campaign contributions. The scandal has forced Assessor John Noguez to take a paid leave of absence.
As the Weekly reported in April, Hadjinian was hearing a case involving one of Salari's clients, when he disclosed that he had received the contribution from Salari.
“If anybody here is uncomfortable with that, let me know,” Hadjinian said. “I assure everybody here I will not let that impede my decision today.”
Noguez's representative at the hearing, Tony Stearns, did not object. Hadjinian later resigned from the Assessment Appeals Board to focus on his duties as a newly elected Montebello councilman. He did not end up participating in the panel's ruling.
Dave Demerjian, the head of the D.A.'s Public Integrity Unit, said the inquiry was opened on Monday.
“Everyone knows we're looking at Mr. Salari,” Demerjian said. “As part of that, we're looking at the contributions. There may not be anything there.”
In an interview Tuesday, Hadjinian said he had never received the contribution, because his money was tied up with Kinde Durkee, the campaign treasurer who has pleaded guilty to defrauding her clients.
“It's a moot point,” Hadjinian said. “I never got the money.”
Update: Mark Werksman, Salari's attorney, says: “Like any other political contribution my client made, it was done lawfully and transparently and he got nothing in exchange.”