An audit of the L.A. County assessor's office delivers mostly common-sense recommendations to address the bribery controversy.
The recommendations of a new audit of the Los Angeles County assessor's office are a responsible, if somewhat depressing, reaction to the controversy that has embroiled that department for months. Its top official, John Noguez, has been arrested and charged with accepting bribes from a tax consultant who was seeking reduced assessments for his client's properties, a charge that, as the audit notes, creates the impression that "the property tax system in Los Angeles County is being gamed by politically connected taxpayers." That's somewhat obvious, as is the audit's conclusion that such an impression might encourage others to game the system, and that changes are in order to restore public confidence.
The audit, commissioned by the Board of Supervisors and conducted by an independent firm, recommends that the assessor employ a chief deputy with "substantial assessor experience and expertise and demonstrated managerial competence," a sensible-enough notion, though it's difficult to imagine why it took an audit to reach that conclusion. It also recommends that tax consultants working on behalf of private clients effectively register as lobbyists, limiting both the gifts they can give and the authorities with whom they may negotiate. An ordinance to that effect is being drafted, and seems a logical response to the problems uncovered in the office so far.