Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said County Assessor John Noguez -- whose office is the target of a corruption probe -- should resign.
When asked if he had concerns about Noguez continuing to work as assessor, Cooley told reporters, "Yes, I do. I don't think he should be there."
"In my view, he should resign in light of everything that's come out publicly and because it's interfering with the discharge of that important office's critical functions," the county's top prosecutor said. "And I think that a change over there is entirely appropriate so that some changes in personnel and other reforms can be implemented to restore the integrity of the organization."
A spokesman for the Assessor's Office referred inquiries to Noguez's attorney, who could not be reached for immediate comment.
The investigation, prompted largely by a series of reports by the Los Angeles Times, is focused on tax breaks allegedly extended to Noguez campaign contributors and now would-be contributors.
Cooley noted that the Board of Supervisors does not have the power to fire Noguez because he is an elected official.
"The only way Mr. Noguez can be removed from office is through his own voluntary resignation or if our office undertakes to go to the grand jury and seek an accusation and then, if successful, the court can order him removed from office for malfeasance," Cooley said.
Along with calling for Noguez's resignation, Cooley criticized the California Association of Professional Employees -- the union representing workers in the Assessor's Office -- for issuing a memorandum advising membersto "refuse to answer questions or provide any information or documents to a District Attorney's representative without a written order by the Assessor's Office to comply."
Cooley responded, "We found that to be extraordinary advice, perhaps not obstruction of justice, but definitely interfering with the efficient conduct of a legitimate criminal investigation."
The district attorney noted that there have been ``some individuals who apparently were chilled by this advice that they did not cooperate the way we
hoped they would in terms of just answering questions.''
"... It's a multi-faceted investigation that would, of course, involve as at least persons of interest people who are both employed in the Assessor's Office and individuals who are private citizens who may have a relationship with people within the Assessor's Office,'' Cooley told reporters, describing the number as "not just a handful, several handfuls."
"It's not at a point now where we can for sure say they're even suspects. We need to gather more evidence and then that will clarify things," he said.