LOCAL L.A. Now

Judge rules assessor candidate can't call himself 'deputy assessor'

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge sided with a candidate for county assessor who argued that a rival candidate should not be allowed to call himself a "deputy assessor" on the ballot.

Candidate Omar Haroon, an appraiser in the assessor's office, argued that the job decription chosen by rival candidate Jeffrey Prang, a West Hollywood councilman who also works as a public affairs manager for the assessor's office, was misleading.

The assessor's office does not use "deputy assessor" as an official job title. But Haroon argued that it has traditionally been reserved for employees authorized to act on behalf of the assessor as appraisers.

Prang is not licensed as an appraiser. If elected to the assessor's post he would have a year to obtain a license.

Prang argued that the term "deputy" is commonly used to refer to high-level employees of elected officials -- such as a field deputy or press deputy -- and accurately represents his work.

Judge James C. Chalfant initially sided with Prang in a tentative ruling, but changed his mind after a hearing Friday. Several other candidates running for the office appeared Friday to support Haroon's position.

"There's no such thing as a deputy city councilperson," Chalfant said. "There's a deputy to a city councilperson .... A deputy to the assessor is not the same thing as a deputy assessor."

The judge said Prang should be listed instead by his official job title, which is "special assistant, assessor."

Haroon said he was pleased with the ruling.

"I’m a real estate professional," he said. "Jeff is a professional politician.”

Prang said he disagreed with the judge's interpretation, but did not object to using his formal job title on the ballot. He criticized Haroon for costing the county money. County Registrar Dean Logan told the court his office would incur $37,625 in overtime costs because of delays in the ballot production schedule as a result of the suit.

"I wouldn't spend $40,000 of taxpayer money for political grandstanding," Prang said.

Twelve candidates are vying to replace current assessor John Noguez, who is on leave and fighting public corruption charges. Haroon accused Prang of picking the "deputy assessor" title to obscure his connection with Noguez, who hired Prang in March 2012. Prang denied that was his intent.

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abby.sewell@latimes.com

Twitter: @sewella

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