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D.A. urges L.A. County assessor to resign

Steve Cooley made the comment to reporters, a day after announcing that he planned to bring a corruption case against John Noguez's office to a grand jury.

May 17, 2012|By Ruben Vives and Jack Dolan, Los Angeles Times
  • Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley's office is probing corruption in the assessor's office.
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley's office is probing corruption… (Luis Sinco, Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley on Wednesday called for the resignation of Assessor John Noguez, whose office has been the target of a corruption probe.

Cooley made the comments to reporters for several news organizations, a day after he announced that he planned to bring the case to a grand jury.

"I don't think he should be there," Cooley told KNBC-TV Channel 4. "In my view, he should resign in the light of everything that's come out publicly."

Officials at the district attorney's office confirmed that Cooley would like Noguez to step down.

Louis Reyes, a spokesman for the county assessor's office, said there was no formal request from Cooley or his office for Noguez to step down.

Reyes referred any further questions to Michael Proctor, the attorney for Noguez.

"Mr. Noguez has been and will continue to be cooperative with the efforts of law enforcement," Proctor said. "Once all the facts are out, it will be clear that Mr. Noguez did not violate any laws."

The call for the assessor's resignation comes a day after Cooley's first public statement to The Times' about the expanding criminal probe of the assessor's office.

He also accused the union representing employees of the department of interfering with the investigation by ordering members to refuse to cooperate with prosecutors without permission from Noguez's office.

The investigation, which began last year, has centered on tax breaks allegedly extended to Noguez campaign contributors and would-be contributors. Property tax bills are based on assessed values, which are determined by Noguez's staff. A lower assessed value means a lower tax bill.

Although Noguez remains the only elected official targeted by the investigation, a number of other public officials and private citizens are also targets, Cooley said.

Last month, investigators served search warrants at assessor's office locations across the county, at Noguez's Huntington Park home and at the Phoenix-area home and office of Ramin Salari, a property tax consultant and prominent fundraiser for Noguez.

Investigators also searched the offices of Andrew Stephens and Mark McNeil, two of Noguez's top aides in the assessor's office. Noguez and McNeil have denied any wrongdoing.

Salari's attorney, Mark Werksman, said his client has denied any wrongdoing.

"The district attorney should not be bringing this case to the media," Werksman said. "He should bring it to court where it belongs so that we can evaluate it and rebut it."

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