Endorsement: Another term for Los Angeles County Assessor Jeffrey Prang? Yes
Los Angeles County Assessor Jeffrey Prang is seeking reelection this year, and voters would be wise to give him a third term.
The public may not be familiar with Prang or the county assessor’s office, and that’s not a bad thing. He was elected to the job in 2014 to fill the spot left vacant by John Noguez — who garnered plenty of attention, and not in a good way. Noguez was charged in 2012 with accepting bribes for lowering property owners’ assessments, and spent the rest of his term on a paid leave of absence. (After an appellate court dismissed the case against Noguez on a technical violation in 2020, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office refiled the charges, and the case is still pending.)
Prang has done an admirable job of dispelling the dark cloud his predecessor left over the department. He has worked to modernize the office by upgrading its computer system (a project that is still unfolding) and digitizing records. He has tackled the backlog of assessment appeals and put in place a $45 filing fee to reduce meritless appeals, and is developing new ways to recruit and train assessors to fill the vacancies in his department.
All of this while educating himself on this esoteric work. The assessor’s job is to appraise newly built, improved or purchased properties and business assets to determine how much property tax the owners must pay each year. The office also handles appeals of decisions made by its appraisers.
California needs a fiscal watchdog who is independent from the party in power.
Typically, elected county assessors come from the ranks of the department. Prang was not an appraiser by training nor had he worked in real estate. He had many years of experience in local government — including a stint on the West Hollywood City Council. Eight years after his election, he has become a leader among state assessors and is a member of the executive board of the California Assessors’ Assn.
Three people are running to unseat Prang — all deputy assessors who believe they could do a better job running the 1,300-employee department. Mike Campbell and Sandy Sun have both been in their jobs for many years, but have no management experience. Nor could they offer specifics on how, if elected, they would address the complaints about Prang’s administration, which center mainly on vacancies in the department and frustrations with the new computer system. The third challenger, Anthony Lopez, did not respond to our interview invitations and has no campaign website.
Prang’s latest term has not been without complications. Earlier this year, San Fernando Valley Democratic Sen. Bob Hertzberg, who is running for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, criticized Prang for moving too slowly to process thousands of claims allowed under Proposition 19, a 2020 state ballot measure that expanded the eligibility for property tax transfers. But the problems were the result of confusing language in Proposition 19. Hertzberg wrote and the Legislature passed a bill in 2021 to clarify the rules, and the assessor now has to get through the backlog of applications. Prang says that the criticism is unfair and that assessors had warned state officials they would not be ready to process claims in just the few months allowed in the measure. (The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., which has endorsed Prang and one of Hertzberg’s opponents in the supervisor’s race, says the backlog is not the assessor’s fault.)
And in 2019, his office was accused in a whistleblower lawsuit of giving favorable treatment to connected taxpayers, including Rand Corp. and John Barger, the brother of county Supervisor Kathryn Barger. The lawsuit was filed by three employees of the assessor’s department and further suggested that special tax treatment was a “quid pro quo” for campaign contributions, but didn’t cite any specific claims and also accused county lawyers of purposely losing appeals. Prang said none of the cases cited in the lawsuit involve campaign donors and calls the claims unfounded. The suit is pending before the county court.
Here are the L.A. Times’ editorial board endorsements for elected offices in Los Angeles city and county, LAUSD, superior court, statewide offices, the state legislature and U.S. House and Senate seats.
The assessor’s office is a large agency and needs sound management. And of all the people on the ballot, Prang is the best one to handle the challenges.
Read more endorsements at: latimes.com/endorsements.
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