Still reeling from bribery charges against Assessor John Noguez, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will consider next week an ordinance to ban property tax agents from making campaign contributions to the assessor or candidates for the office.
They would also consider an ordinance requiring property tax agents to register with the county, and disclose their clients and their contributions starting July 1, 2013.
The proposals come weeks after Noguez was arrested and charged with 24 felonies, including accepting $185,000 in bribes and campaign contributions from a tax agent.
Noguez has pleaded not guilty but remains behind bars, unable to make bail.
Also charged in the alleged scam were tax agent Ramin Salari, and Assessor's Office employees Mark McNeil and Scott Schenter.
Supervisor Don Knabe first broached the idea of banning campaign contributions to the assessor in August.
"The situation with the Assessor's office has raised concerns about potential inappropriate relationships between the assessor and tax agents and their clients," Knabe said Thursday. "There can be no `pay-to-play."'
County Counsel John Krattli, Registrar-Recorder and County Clerk Dean Logan, and the board's executive officer, Sachi Hamai, together drafted the proposed amendments to the county's Campaign Finance Ordinance.
They said banning campaign contributions to assessor candidates and officeholders is "necessary and proper to prevent actual corruption or the appearance of corruption."
"The Board of Supervisors has a substantial interest in maintaining the integrity of the tax rolls and ensuring that revenues due to the public are properly and legally assessed and collected without undue influence," the proposed amendment stated.
Under the plan, property tax agents would be prohibited from contributing to any assessor or assessor candidate's campaigns, officeholder accounts and attorney's fees funds. Agents are defined as persons hired to communicate with the assessor, his or her staff, as well as the Assessment Appeals Board and assessment hearing officers, to advocate for their clients in assessment appeals.
It also prohibits assessor and assessor candidates from soliciting and accepting such contributions.
The other ordinance would require property tax agents to pay $525 a year to register with the county and submit annual and quarterly reports. Failing to register would result in a fine.
The money would be used to offset the cost of implementing the program, which requires hiring staff and technical upgrades.
There are at least 1,725 listed property tax agents throughout the county, according to Krattli, Logan and Hamai. They added, however, that actual number could be much higher.
Other proposals to prevent corruption include expanding the state Board of Equalization's periodic surveys of Assessor's Offices across California, and expanding whistleblower protections to employees who report certain forms of wrongdoing in the Assessor's Office.