May 10, 2012 •
AB 404 responds to pay-to-play in L.A. County
Assemblyman Mike Gatto is preparing legislation in response to the alleged pay-to-play scandal at the Los Angeles County Assessor’s office. The bill, AB 404, would require tax agents to register as lobbyists in counties already regulating lobbying.
Tax agents are hired by property owners to persuade appraisers and the assessor that property values are lower than listed. While the bill leaves it up to the counties to craft specific regulations, the draft regulations would require tax agents to register as lobbyists with the county, would forbid them from making campaign contributions to any county elected official, and would also bar them from giving gifts worth more than $50 to county employees.
The district attorney’s office is investigating allegations that one tax agent, Ramin Salari, used contributions to obtain favorable treatment from Assessor John Noguez. A former appraiser, Scott Schenter, claimed to have cut roll values with the expectation that affected property owners would be more likely to donate to Noguez’s campaign.