The Los Angeles County assessor’s office has given favorable treatment to connected taxpayers, allowing them to pay lower property taxes for years and costing the county millions of dollars in lost revenue, according to a whistleblower lawsuit filed by three employees.
Stephen Adamus, Yvonne Austin and Scott Woods say County Assessor Jeff Prang, his top managers and county lawyers have violated tax codes to benefit property owners with ties to elected officials by giving them favorable decisions on reassessments. The trio alleges the county has intentionally lost legal cases, reversed property tax decisions and reimbursed millions of dollars to individuals and corporations in back taxes.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the three say they were “pressured to unlawfully change unfavorable tax decisions they made during a taxpayer’s reassessment.” When they did not go along with their bosses, they were punished and effectively turned into clerks, the suit states.
“This is the county’s dirty little secret when it comes to property taxes. It is one rule for the connected and another for the public,” said Greg Smith, a veteran labor lawyer representing the employees. “They threaten them, ostracized them, told them not to discuss the scheme on emails, and when they would not go along with the conspiracy, literally put one of them — a top manager — to work in a windowless room.”
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