Los Angeles County CEO William Fujioka Tuesday recommended that the director of the county Department of Beaches and Harbors—Santos Kreimann—temporarily head the assessor's office after Assessor John Noguez begins a leave of absence amid an ongoing corruption probe.
Within hours of Fujioka's recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, Noguez agreed to make the appointment.
He thanked the board for generating the recommendation and then said, "I am looking forward to appointing Mr. Kreimann Chief Deputy. As soon as he assumes his position, I will begin my leave of absence."
The Board of Supervisors deferred a vote on the matter until next week "so that the public has an opportunity to react," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
Fujioka cited Kreimann's "exceptional management skills" as one reason for his recommendation.
Fujioka said he wanted someone who would not be "just a gatekeeper" but able to conduct a broad review of the department's processes and procedures. Kreimann has 20 years of experience with the county and has worked in the CEO's office as part of a group focused on real estate issues and spent time in the Treasurer and Tax Collector's Office. He has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Cal State Los Angeles.
Yaroslavsky expressed concern about how the Department of Beaches and Harbors would manage without Kreimann, noting that he could be acting assessor "for a few months or three years."
Fujioka cited a strong bench of other officials at Beaches and Harbors and added that his own office would take a stronger supervisory role.
District Attorney Steve Cooley is investigating allegations that Noguez' office reduced the assessed value of properties in exchange for campaign contributions. Scott Schenter, 49, an appraiser who worked in the Assessor's Office from 1988 to 2011, was arrested May 21 and charged with 60 felony counts of falsifying accounts and records. Schenter allegedly slashed property values by about $172 million to lower tax bills for owners of multimillion-dollar homes, condominiums and businesses in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades, in exchange for political contributions for Noguez.
Noguez, an elected official, announced June 1 he would take a leave from his post. His leave will not take effect until Kreimann or someone else has been hired as chief deputy assessor. At that point, the chief deputy would step in to lead the department.
"I encourage my staff to support Santos Kreimann during my absence," Noguez said Tuesday. "He will have my full authority to manage and oversee the department."