West Hollywood Mayor Jeffrey Prang on Noguez Charges: “I’m sorry it’s come to this point”

West Hollywood Mayor Jeffrey Prang
West Hollywood Mayor Jeffrey Prang (City of West Hollywood)

Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez was arrested this morning after a year-long investigation into whether his office reduced property taxes in exchange for contributions and other favors.

According to charges filed Wednesday by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, Noguez accepted $185,000 in bribes in exchange for actions that cost taxpayers $1.16 million in property tax revenue. A total of 32 criminal charges were filed against Noguez, who is responsible for determining property taxes on more than two million homes and businesses in LA County.

West Hollywood Mayor Jeffrey Prang, who works for the county assessor as a special assistant and is not a subject of the inquiry, stressed Wednesday that the allegations against Noguez occurred prior to his employment by the office.

“These are serious charges, he’s in jail and it has to be very difficult for him personally and his family,” Prang said. “I certainly hope none of these things are true, but in the meantime, I’m sorry it’s come to this point. It’s very difficult.”

The mayor said he plans to remain in his position at the Assessor’s office, serving under Chief Deputy Assessor Santos H. Kreimann, who has run the office since Noguez’s leave of absence in June. Prang, like each of the other city councilmembers, has a full-time “day job” in addition to serving as an elected city official.

Last year, the Los Angeles District Attorney launched an investigation into Noguez and the Assessor’s office, probing allegedly improper tax breaks granted to more than 100 Westside property owners since Noguez’s election. The office also received complaints from Assessor’s Office employees who said they were told to lower property taxes for clients of Noguez campaign contributors, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Prang, a long-time friend of Noguez, began working for the Assessor’s Office in March after nine months of unemployment, and just as the investigation into Noguez and his office intensified.

“It was not exactly an auspicious beginning to a new job,” Prang said. “I had no inkling this was brewing, and frankly had I known probably would have given it second thought.”

Prang first met Noguez 20 years ago when he began work under then-Assessor Kenneth Hahn, and the two become stronger friends through the years. Noguez even attended Prang’s swearing in as mayor of West Hollywood on April 16.

Just prior to working with the Assessor’s Office, Prang was Assistant City Manager for the city of Pico Rivera until that position was eliminated.

Prang described his role with the Assessor’s Office as “liaison to the LA County Board of Supervisors, handling government affairs inside and outside of the county, community relations and legislation.”

He also consulted with the Assessor’s media team and came under some fire after he took aim at one of LA Weekly’s stories about the investigation. According to LA Weekly, Prang sent emails to the deputies of the LA County Board of Supervisors claiming that an affidavit helped exonerate Noguez. LA Weekly claimed the affidavit, in fact, implicated Noguez in illegal activity.

Mark McNeil, a top aide of Noguez, and Ramin Salari, a professional property tax consultant, also were arrested and charged on Wednesday.

That brings the number of arrests to four, including that of ex-county appraiser Scott Schenter, who was charged with 60 felonies related to improper tax reductions. Shortly after Schenter’s arrest, Noguez took a leave of absence.

The Times reported that Noguez’s attorney defended his client on Wednesday, calling the district attorney’s investigation “one-sided.”

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Steve Martin
Steve Martin
10 years ago

Mayor Prang must think WeHoville and the people of West Hollywood are morons if he thinks anyone believes that he had “no inkling this was brewing” when he took the job of “special assistant” to Assesor John Noguez. News of the DA investigation had been in the Los Angeles Times for months before Prang took the position. Far from “giving it a second thought”, Prang was desperate for employment and leveraged his friendship with Nogez, the highest openly gay elected offical in LA County, to have a job created for him. Indeed when questioned by members of the public about… Read more »

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