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Noguez will keep salary — with raise — despite being in jail

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors decides not to remove the assessor, who has been jailed since mid-October on bribery charges.

December 19, 2012|By Jack Dolan and Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times
  • Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez, shown at arraignment, received an automatic cost-of-living raise in July, even though he is in jail.
Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez, shown at arraignment, received… (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez will keep receiving his $197,000 salary in jail. The Board of Supervisors discussed his fate behind closed doors Tuesday and did not remove him from office.

Noguez has been in jail since mid-October. He is charged with taking $185,000 in bribes from a tax consultant — and campaign fundraiser — to lower property taxes for his clients.

Noguez, who was elected assessor in 2010, has not worked since June, when he placed himself on paid leave of absence to concentrate on preparing a legal defense to the corruption allegations swirling around him.

While on leave, he got a cost-of-living raise in July, boosting his annual salary from $192,000 to $197,000.

Elected officials in California typically can't be removed from office unless they are convicted of a job-related crime or voted out in a recall. On Tuesday, the supervisors considered invoking a rarely used provision that would have allowed them to remove Noguez for failing to perform his duties for three consecutive months.

After the closed session, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said, "My personal feeling is he has not abandoned his job by virtue of choice — he's been incarcerated for allegations of corruption and until a court of law convicts him of a crime, he's still the assessor of Los Angeles County."

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the board will continue consulting with attorneys regarding options, but he did not expect any "concrete response" until the new year.

On Sept. 12, nearly 90 days after taking his leave, Noguez met briefly with assessor's office staff, effectively resetting the clock. But sources say that he has not had any meaningful contact with the office since then.

Noguez has been in jail since Oct. 17, unable to make his $1.16-million bail. He must prove that any money he uses for his defense was not obtained through criminal means.

Attendance was sparse at two recent fundraisers hosted by friends hoping to get him out.

If county supervisors had determined that Noguez's prolonged absence constituted abandonment of his job, they could have appointed someone else to take his place and collect the assessor's salary. The most likely candidate was Santos Kreimann, a veteran county manager selected to run the assessor's office in June after Noguez took his leave.

Noguez's $5,000 raise in July was not reviewed or approved by the supervisors, said county spokesman David Sommers. Under county code, the assessor's salary goes up every July 1 in accordance with the consumer price index. The same applies to the sheriff and the district attorney, who are also elected.

Other county employees have not received a cost-of-living raise since 2009, Sommers said.

jack.dolan@latimes.com

abby.sewell@latimes.com

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