Board member Jerome Horton fights his depiction in audit of tax agency
Horton is the second longest-serving elected member on the board, and two of the agency’s recent executive directors now work on his staff.
The soon-to-be-released audit from the Department of Finance found that he has reassigned civil servants to work for him, organized events that strayed from the tax-collecting agency’s core mission and had a behind-the-scenes role in creating a customer service call center in his district. It was based on interviews with more than 70 Board of Equalization employees and visits to site offices around the state.
Here are excerpts from Horton’s statement on the audit.
On BOE employees who fear retaliation from board members:
“ALLEGATIONS Regarding the two examples of alleged workplace retaliation in the report, such conduct by Board Members is strictly prohibited at BOE, and I have called upon the Executive Director to immediately investigate and report on the incidents.
“As mentioned, it is disappointing that the DOF chose to identify these individuals in their evaluation, especially if the DOF failed to properly disclose these allegations to the Executive Director in a timely basis.
“In this regard, I am also concerned that the Executive Director for over a year has failed to bring forth the Board’s recommended policy that requires annual evaluations of Career Executive Assignment employees in order to prevent unfair termination.”
Why Horton’s ‘connecting women to power’ events are relevant to the Board of Equalization:
“Although the auditor did not examine the 2016 Connecting Women to Power LA conference, the evidence shows that many of the sessions had a direct nexus with the BOE, including but not limited to the State Job Fair, a basic tax compliance class, leadership training for staff, and panel discussions on tax credits and filing requirements throughout the day, as well as consultation and registration information provided throughout the conference.
“The Chief Counsel, who has attended and/or observed the conference since 2010, opined that the event has a direct nexus with the tax administration duties of the BOE and a firm governmental purpose. These types of free one-stop-sessions attract thousands of small business owners who otherwise would not interact with BOE, to learn about tax compliance and tax agencies.”
On the call center:
“The truth is I legally advocated for the Customer Service Culver City Call Center and the El Segundo nonpublic office and related job opportunity, however these initiatives were designed by executive management in consultation with the Department of General Services, State Personnel Board, and Department of Finance respectively, discussed with individual Members, included in the Facilities Management plan and Tax Gap II Budget Change Proposal that was approved by the Board, and subsequently approved by the Department of Finance and the Legislature for funding. My advocacy for advertising the positions was subsequent to the approval and posting of the positions by the agency. This was all legal, appropriate and in hindsight productive decision. Further the ED approved the hiring of these positions and the Controller authorized their payment.”
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