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County assessor candidate sues over rival's job description on ballot

March 24, 2014|By Abby Sewell
  • Jeffrey Prang, pictured when he was mayor of West Hollywood, is listed as deputy assessor on the ballot.
Jeffrey Prang, pictured when he was mayor of West Hollywood, is listed as… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

A candidate for Los Angeles County assessor filed a lawsuit Monday saying that a competitor in the race mischaracterized his job title.

Omar Haroon, an appraiser in the assessor’s office, is seeking a court order to prevent election officials from listing assessor employee Jeffrey Prang as a “deputy assessor” on the ballot.

The assessor's office has no official “deputy assessor” post, but Haroon said the term should be reserved for employees who are certified appraisers.

Prang is a longtime West Hollywood city councilman and works in the assessor’s office as a special assistant handling public relations, but does not hold an appraiser’s license. If elected as assessor, he would have a year to obtain an appraiser's certificate.

Haroon accused Prang of picking the title in an attempt to obscure his association with the current assessor, John Noguez, who is on leave facing corruption charges and not a candidate for reelection.

Haroon said the assessor's post should be held by someone with direct experience in property appraisal.

"This isn't something a career politician should be doing," he said. "...Los Angeles County deserves to have someone in such an important position who knows what they're doing, has the support of the office, and can raise morale."

Prang said he had completed the training program to obtain an appraiser's license when he previously worked for the office in the 1990s. He defended the term "deputy assessor" as an accurate description of his work as a representative of the assessor's office, and called the lawsuit "typical political gamesmanship."

"I'm not sure that any of the other candidates can claim to have as much experience in senior public administration, if any," he said.

Prang has raised more than $200,000 so far and has gathered influential endorsements including from the county Democratic Party; Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents about 55,000 county employees; and county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

The union representing appraisers, however, chose not to endorse any candidate in the primary.

Prang has said his association with Noguez, who hired him in March 2012, was superficial and he wasn't aware of or involved in the alleged criminal activities being investigated when he took the job.

Along with Haroon and Prang, 10 other candidates are running to replace Noguez.

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Twitter: @sewella

abby.sewell@latimes.com

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