John Noguez is many things to many people. Born in California but raised in Mexico, he is California’s highest elected openly gay official, who is also married to a woman.
He dropped out of the Los Angeles’ School of Finance without finishing his degree, but was elected to serve as Los Angeles’s County Assessor. Now he’s California’s highest ranking elected openly Gay Mexican prisoner, who will still go on collecting his $197,000 salary while he awaits trial on corruption charges for lowering the tax rates of the clients of tax agent, Ramin Salari. The $197,000 salary is almost as large as the $185,000 bribe that he allegedly received from Salari.
Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez has been in jail since mid-October because a campaign fundraiser allegedly bribed him to lower property taxes for his individual clients, but the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday decided they will not remove him from office and continue paying his $197,000 annual salary, which has already increased by $5,000 since July due to a cost-of-living adjustment.
Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said until a court convicts Noguez of a crime, he should be allowed to stay on as assessor even though he cannot perform his duties while in jail because Noguez he has been “unable to make his $1.16-million bail.”
Antonovich said he personally believed that “Noguez has not abandoned his job by virtue of choice — he’s been incarcerated for allegations of corruption and until a court of law convicts him of a crime, he’s still the assessor of Los Angeles County.”
Noguez has not worked since June, since he stepped down to conduct his legal defense, which raises the question of whether the entire California state and municipal system would better if all of its elected officials were in jail. It’s an experiment that may be worth trying.
There are some questions as to whether Noguez may have been leading a double life in a strange hall of mirrors halfway between diversity and insanity.
Deputy District Attorney Susan Schwartz argued bail should be set high because Noguez has not stepped down as assessor but remains on paid leave. With the investigation ongoing, she hinted the amount he is accused of taking in bribes is “just the tip of the iceberg.”
Schwartz raised concerns about Noguez being a flight risk, saying he has family in Mexico and may be leading a double life.
The appraiser was born “Juan Renaldo Rodriguez” but elected as “John Noguez,” and has used various combinations of those first, middle and last names in driver’s licenses, passports and other identification.
His sexual orientation was also discussed briefly in court to support the argument he was living a double life. Schwartz noted that even though Noguez has been married to a woman since 2001, he is known as being openly gay.
Noguez’s lawyer called those accusations “demeaning.”
“It’s a complex issue – one’s sexuality,” Proctor said. “It doesn’t make one duplicitous; doesn’t make one not love their spouse; and doesn’t mean that Noguez is a flight risk.”
The Noguez corruption scandal doesn’t end with him. It extends all the way up through the corrupt infrastructure of the Democratic Party.
Los Cerritos Community Newspaper has found a campaign fund controlled by jailed Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez that was established in 2010 to donate contributions in the tens of thousands of dollars to some of the most powerful politicians in California including Governor Jerry Brown, State Controller John Chiang, at least two members of Congress, and local city council members.
The committee was called the “Elect Noguez Committee” according to documents filed with the California Secretary of State. The treasurer of the political action group is Martha Castaneda, who currently resides in Noguez’ home in Huntington Park. She also serves as Noguez’s Executive Assistant inside the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office.
Noguez was jailed in October and is facing dozens of felony charges for money laundering, perjury and other allegations in what Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley called “the biggest political corruption case” in his 40 years as a criminal prosecutor.
In the filings with the Secretary of State in late 2010, the “Elect Noguez Committee” doled out more than $85,000 in contributions that were directly sent to Brown’s campaign for Governor, Chiang’s campaign for Controller, as well as donations to Los Angeles Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Judy Chu and others.