"Assessor's (Office) employees indicated there is widespread belief that favoritism played a significant role in promotions when the current assessor was elected," Auditor-Controller Wendy Watanabe wrote in her report to the county Board of Supervisors, which had ordered the audit.
Watanabe's office did not conduct the audit itself, instead hiring a private consultant, David Howe of Strategica Inc., to do the work.
"The consultant's review of promotions concluded that the individuals promoted met the requirements for the positions, but did note that the Assessor's (Office) used more subjective criteria for high-level promotions, compared to more objective criteria for lower levels," Watanabe wrote.
In its criminal complaint against Noguez, who has been in county jail since October, the District Attorney's Office noted he had promoted Mark McNeil to head the Major Appraisal Division.
McNeil now stands accused of 14 felony counts of conspiracy and misappropriation by a public officer.
As the assessor's principal appraiser, McNeil supposedly lowered the property tax payments of residential and business owners represented by tax agent Ramin Salari, who allegedly paid Noguez at least $185,000 in bribes.
Since Noguez's election in 2010, almost half of the Assessor's Office's senior managers have left, primarily due to retirement. Watanabe said the audit found some of their replacements were not up to par.
"While the successors have the necessary qualifications, they may have lacked experience or training in managing the department," she wrote in her report.
The audit, however, found no evidence that some assessor representatives were giving private tax agents preferential treatment, or fraternizing with them outside of work.
The Assessor's Office is currently being run by Santos Kreimann, the head of the county's Department of Beaches and Harbors. In a statement, Anthony Crump, acting spokesman for the Assessor's Office, said, "We have already begun implementing many of the recommendations contained in the Auditor's report.
"We will continue to aggressively implement those recommendations that safeguard our critical systems, strengthen our operations, and maintain the independence of the Office of the Assessor."