This article was posted on Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014

Every newspaper in Los AngelesCounty has endorsed John Morris for Los Angeles County Assessor.  From the Los Angeles Times to the Daily News; from the Antelope Valley Press to the Long Beach Press Telegram; the San Gabriel Valley Tribune; Whittier Daily News; Pasadena Star News; Daily Breeze; and the Los Angeles Register –all have endorsed John Morris for Los Angeles County Assessor.

In addition, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has joined all nine daily newspapers to unanimously endorse Head Deputy District Attorney John Morris to run the Assessor’s Office because he will protect Proposition 13 and clean up the Assessor’s Office.

We need someone who will protect taxpayers and protect Proposition 13.  Fraud, corruption, and inattentive leadership have stained and hollowed out the L.A. County Assessor’s Office, and we need new leadership to guide that office forward.  

What I Will Accomplish
When elected Assessor I will: 

  • ·         Protect and Fully Implement Proposition 13.
  • ·         End corruption and prevent future Assessor’s Office fraud by implementing stringent policies to protect taxpayers.
  • ·         Improve technology and online resources to create an appeals process that is based on clear, accurate assessments and accessible data. 

$1.1 Trillion Dollars in Property Value Maintained on 1970’s Era Computers

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The Assessor’s Office is critical to our county’s wellbeing and our more than 10 million residents.  It provides valuation assessments on more than $1.1 trillion of property.  This office’s decisions help create local government revenue that is twice as large as local sales tax and helps provide funding for public safety, education, health care, and other programs that are integral to our lives. 

This Agency Has Failed to Keep Up and

Now Suffers From a Gigantic Corruption Scandal.

Historically, the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office has helped create and implement key taxpayer protections not just in LA County, but throughout California and the nation.

The current Assessor has been charged with dozens of felony counts of embezzlement, theft of public funds, and bribery.  He allegedly took bribes to lower tax assessments on campaign contributors’ properties.  Because those cronies paid less, hard-working, honest taxpayers paid more, and it cost us more than $10 million overall.

After 26 years of being led by Assessor’s Office insiders, taxpayers in need of an assessment appeal face an agency hurt by inefficient, decades old systems, mismanagement, and now corruption.  It is time for the Assessor’s Office to again ensure taxpayers are treated fairly.  

We Need an Outsider and New Leadership

To fully implement Proposition 13 and create a fair and accurate property assessment roll we need a leader whose leadership has provided similar results for County taxpayers.

I am the only candidate experienced in identifying and eliminating fraud.  As a criminal prosecutor at the District Attorneys Office for over 24 years, I am an expert and published author on criminal fraud and white-collar crime.  Former District Attorney Steve Cooley endorses me because he knows I will eliminate and prevent corruption at the Assessor’s Office.

I have substantial real estate experience that will allow me to quickly turn around the Assessor’s Office.  I have four years of real estate law experience, I was a paid law school real estate tutor, I am a published author on real estate litigation, and I hold a real estate license.

Leadership makes all the difference.  I am an experienced high-level manager at the District Attorneys Office and have held supervisory and administrative positions there for the last 14 years.  I supervised the busiest branch of the DAs Office.  I also led one of the largest fraud prosecution divisions in California, and under my leadership the division more than tripled the number of its criminal prosecutions.

Technology improvements I helped introduce and implement at the DA’s Office have cut the backlog of delays in the courts, and I can provide the same common sense solutions to the Assessor’s Office that eliminate the opportunity for fraud and provide the employees of the Assessor’s Office the support they need to do their job and serve taxpayers. 

I Will Protect Prop 13

I will defend Proposition 13 which is why I am the only Assessor candidate endorsed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the non-partisan group that fights to protect Proposition 13 and fights to protect property owners.

The potential loss of Proposition 13 for apartment owners will be disastrous.  Property taxes will increase, sometimes by enormous amounts.  Costs will increase and owners will be forced to pass through the higher taxes to tenants.  Worse, apartment owners in areas where rent control exists such as West Hollywood and Santa Monica might not be able to raise rents to cover increased property taxes.  In many cases the result will be bankruptcy and foreclosure.

It is clear why we must fight to save Prop 13.  It is good for property owners, good for taxpayers, and good for California.  I will protect Prop 13 and will fight to protect taxpayers. 

Restoring Honesty and Integrity –NO WORK SHOULD MEAN NO PAY!

Integrity in an organization grows and spreads from the top by making the right decision to serve and protect taxpayers for the right reasons, chiefly so everyone gets the opportunity to succeed.  This is what leaders do and what I have done throughout my career.

While the Assessor and his assistants were illegally marking down assessments on mansions and Sunset Boulevard properties, I was leading a team of prosecutors who eliminated fraud and white-collar crime, saving us millions.

Even after his initial criminal activity was exposed and he was arrested, the damage to taxpayers has gone forward as the crooked Assessor has continued to collect salary and benefits while on a two year plus paid leave while he prepares his criminal defense.  As the scandal broke, my opponent was hired by the corrupt Assessor, and my opponent ultimately negotiated more than 2 full years of full pay and benefits for his long-time friend and political ally to be paid without a single day’s work!  That is wrong.

The sweetheart deal my opponent negotiated has allowed the crooked Assessor to receive almost $500,000 in salary for doing nothing.  What is worse, after my opponent used our tax dollars to pay the crooked Assessor to stay at home, my opponent declared his run for that same office – political opportunism at its worse and a conflict of interest at best.

The crooked Assessor stole from taxpayers while in office and now he cheats us while on the paid leave my opponent orchestrated for my opponent’s political advantage. 

No work should mean on pay!  Allowing the crooked Assessor to continue to profit even after committing corruption in office does nothing to prevent future fraud.  Once elected to the Assessor’s Office, I immediately will implement a policy that if I or any later Assessor cannot do his job because of criminal charges, he will not receive any pay or benefits. 

I will Speed the Assessment Appeals
Process and Insure its Fairness

Taxpayers need faster decisions because delays can be expensive and create uncertainty, slowing economic activity and costing jobs.

Currently, it can take up to four years to receive an assessment appeal hearing.  During that time a property owner must face an unrelenting, unfair tax burden. 

I will increase the number of Assessment Appeals Boards in operation to more quickly determine assessments.  I also will implement a policy where a property owner can appeal an assessment to the Assessor employees supervisor for immediate review.  That way, any blatant mistakes can be remedied quickly. 

Increasing Consistent Valuations

I will increase training of Assessor employees to minimize inconsistent valuations, and I will have local offices increase their communication and coordination to ensure fair and consistent assessments.  It should be a rare occasion when two Assessor employees provide widely divergent valuations on similar properties in the same area.  When it occurs, uncertainty is created, and the public loses trust and confidence in the Assessors Office.  

Implementing 21st Century Technology Agency-Wide

Tracking the accuracy of $1.1 trillion in property assessments with technology older than many of the employees tasked with using it creates a system that is prone to failure and undetected user error, while at the same time limiting the capabilities of the Assessors Office as a whole to protect taxpayers.

I will implement a new information technology system to avoid these problems, increase efficiency, and bring Assessor operations into the 21st Century.  I have experience doing so.  At the District Attorneys Office I led a team that replaced the information technology system prosecutors use to prepare motions and other documents for court.  Prosecutors have used this new intranet-based system tens of thousands of times, and it has made them more efficient and effective in court. 

Transforming the Assessor’s Office

This and other straightforward reforms are critical to rebuilding the reputation of the Assessor’s Office.  They will improve the accuracy of assessments, improve the office’s efficiency, enhance public confidence, and let taxpayers know they are receiving the honest government that we all expect and deserve. 

John Morris is a candidate for Los Angeles County Assessor.  You can vote for him in the November 4, 2014, Election.

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