Preliminary Hearing for Former County Assessor Set for March

Former county Assessor Webster Guillory.

Former county Assessor Webster Guillory.

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Updated 2/23/15 9:45 AM

A preliminary hearing in the criminal case against former county Assessor Webster Guillory, who is accused of submitting false paperwork in his bid for re-election, has been postponed for Mar. 24.

Guillory appeared before a judge Monday morning requesting the hearing be postponed because his attorney, John Barnett, is in a trial in Norwalk. An associate of Barnett’s, attorney Sliman Nawabi, was present on his behalf.

Original article published 2/23/15 at 6:00 AM, “Evidence to Be Presented in Prosecution of Former County Assessor”

A preliminary hearing is slated to begin today in the criminal case against former county Assessor Webster Guillory, who is accused of submitting false paperwork in his bid for re-election.

The hearing is expected to offer the most thorough public examination yet of the evidence against Guillory, who is charged with three felony violations of state elections law.

Prosecutors say Guillory falsely claimed on nomination papers last March that he witnessed signature gathering.  He is also accused of requesting a colleague to falsely sign a petition.

If convicted, Guillory could face up to four years and four months in prison.  He has pled not guilty.

At the hearing, Judge Elizabeth Guerrero Macias is slated to hear arguments from the prosecution and defense and decide whether the evidence is strong enough for a trial.

In order for the case to move forward, the judge must rule that the evidence would lead an ordinary person to have a strong suspicion that Guillory is guilty.

As assessor, Guillory oversaw an office that determined the value of taxable properties in Orange County, which is used to levy taxes.  About 315 employees work in the assessor’s office.

Guillory served as assessor from 1998 until newly-elected Assessor Claude Parrish was sworn in last month.

The criminal case centers on alleged actions by Guillory on March 7 of last year, the deadline to submit paperwork to run for county office.

In the run-up to that day Guillory was rumored to be considering retirement after four terms as assessor.  He apparently changed his mind, picking up paperwork for his candidacy on the afternoon of the deadline.

State law requires candidates to submit 20 signatures from registered voters in support of their nomination, vouched for by the signature of the person who personally collected and witnessed the signatures.

According to prosecutors, Guillory signed the nomination papers despite having an associate circulate the petitions.

Although prosecutors are focusing on who signed the petition, questions originally were raised about whether the county employees who signed Guillory’s nomination papers did it on county work time and property.

According to former assessor’s office employees, Guillory had executive managers walk around to workers’ cubicles to gather signatures for his petition, and turned in the paperwork to the Registrar of Voters later that day.  The former employees filed a complaint to the district attorney’s office last May.

State and federal laws prohibit public officials and employees from using public resources and staff hours to support or oppose ballot measures or candidates.

After criminal charges were filed in September, Guillory continued his campaign for re-election.  He was defeated in November by Parrish.

Monday’s hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. in courtroom C55 of the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.