By ELIZABETH MARCELLINO
City News Service
West Hollywood Councilman Jeffrey Prang and Deputy District Attorney John Morris were preparing today for a November runoff in their bid lead the Los Angeles County Assessor's Office.
The last elected assessor, John Noguez, is awaiting trial on corruption charges and each of the dozen candidates running to replace him campaigned on a platform of reform.
Businessman John Y. Wong, who finished second behind Noguez in the 2010 election, failed to attract nearly as many voters this time out. The other candidates who fell short in the race to head the office responsible for establishing a value for all taxable county property were Bell Councilman Nestor "Rick" Valencia, Los Angeles County Deputy Assessors Frank Diaz, John Loew, Sandy Sun, Omar Haroon, Krish Kumar and Brilliant Manyere, Appraiser Tracy Okida and Property Assessment Specialist Yvonne Austin.
Noguez has been on a paid leave of absence -- collecting roughly $200,000 in annual salary -- since 2012 due to an ongoing criminal investigation that led to his being charged with 36 felony counts.
Prang, a special assistant in the Office of Assessor, had dozens of high- profile endorsements, including from California Controller John Chiang, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky, 10 members of the Los Angeles City Council and former assessors Kenneth P. Hahn and Rich Auerbach.
Citing his role in reforms, Prang promised to restore the public's trust in the office. His critics argued that he was hired by and is too close to Noguez, but Prang has said he only worked with the assessor for four or five weeks before Noguez took his leave.
Morris, who was supported by former Gov. George Deukmejian, has said he will defend Prop 13 against legislative encroachments. He argues that his role as prosecutor makes him best suited to institute reforms.
Noguez, an elected official, cannot be fired by the board. A measure proposing that future candidates for the position be appointed, rather than elected, was roundly defeated by 78 percent of voters on a 2012 ballot.
Noguez was arrested Oct. 17, 2012, in connection with an alleged scheme to solicit campaign donations in exchange for lower appraised valuations on properties in Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Pasadena, Marina del Rey and the South Bay.
Acting Assessor Sharon Moller chose not to run.