News Release

Contact: Yating Campbell
For Immediate Release

Fiona Ma Calls For State Auditor Investigation of the Board of Equalization
Independent Auditor Needed For Accountability

Sacramento – At the monthly Board of Equalization (BOE) meeting today, Board Members are discussing a proposed governance policy for the Board. Board Member Fiona Ma, CPA says a governance policy is a good first step but more needs to be done.

"I have always focused on increasing transparency and efficiency at the BOE. I have consistently pushed the BOE to adopt reforms that would impose appropriate checks and balances, greater accountability, and increased transparency. I believe the agency can change and we can do better – we have to do better. More still needs to be done. I am urging the Legislature to immediately direct the State Auditor to investigate the day-to-day affairs of the BOE," said Board Member Ma.

The State Auditor's purpose is to improve California government by assuring the performance, accountability, and transparency our citizens deserve of their government agencies, and already carries the mechanisms and infrastructure to execute the required tasks.

"The State Auditor has knowledge of the agency and the expertise needed to conduct this level of investigation and audit. More importantly, the independence of the office will enable the Auditor to ask the hard questions needed to get to the root of the problems facing the agency," said Board Member Ma.

Board Member Ma is requesting the State Auditor issue a report as soon as possible to the Legislature and Governor that would include recommendations on administrative and legislative remedies to immediately address the findings in the various audits.

Specifically, Board Member Ma is requesting the State Auditor to:

  • Review all Audits and Allegations brought against the BOE: The State Auditor should review all audits and allegations, and draft a white paper with administrative and legislative recommendations to the Legislature and the Governor on or before February 1, 2018.
  • Review Administrative Legal Opinions: The BOE has been without Chief Legal Counsel for more than six months, preventing the necessary legal checks on the management of agency operations. It is necessary to review all opinions related to outreach and education events to ensure legal accuracy as reported in the recent audit.
  • Investigate BOE's Tax Collection Policy to Ensure Uniformity: Review the tax collection policies across the various BOE field offices. The present system of unequal administration and refusal by some offices to accept cash payments is confusing to taxpayers and negatively impacts state revenues.
  • Establish a Complaint Hotline: The State Auditor should establish a hotline providing an avenue for the public, as well as BOE employees, to report inappropriate activities by BOE staff. I would urge the Governor to allocate appropriate funds from the BOE budget to pay for administration of this hotline.
  • Review the Organizational Structure of the Agency: Review the structure of the agency to assess staff competency at the appropriate levels, ensure the proper reporting structure exists on the Executive level, and to investigate potential undue influence by Board Members.
  • Investigate Allegations of Nepotism: Investigate and provide recommendations to address allegations of nepotism.
  • Investigate Misallocation of Resources and Staff: Investigate and provide recommendations to address the misallocation of resources and staff.

"I look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature on the recommendations on how to reform the BOE to restore the public's trust," said Board Member Ma.

Read the May 23, 2017 letter sent to Senator Richard Roth, the April 27, 2017 letter sent to Senator Richard Roth, and the March 27, 2017 letter sent to Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.

Board Member Fiona Ma, CPA, was elected to the Board of Equalization in November 2014, to represent the Second Equalization District. She represents 9.5 million residents in many of California's coastal counties, from Del Norte to Santa Barbara, including the entire San Francisco Bay Area. Ms. Ma served in the California State Assembly from 2006 to 2012, serving as the first Asian woman Assembly Speaker pro Tempore since 1850. While in the Assembly, Ms. Ma focused on improving California, authoring legislation to create jobs and grow the state's economy. As an Executive Board Member of the National Conference of State Legislators, she worked to keep California's economy competitive with other states. Ms. Ma has been a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in California since 1992. For more information, visit Board Member Ma's website.

The five-member California State Board of Equalization (BOE) is a publicly elected tax board. The BOE serves a significant role in the assessment and administration of property taxes.

Note: This news release may discuss complex tax laws and concepts. It may not address every situation, and is not considered written advice under Revenue and Taxation Code section 6596. Changes in law or regulations may have occurred since the time this news release was written. If there is a conflict between the text of this news release and the law, decisions will be based upon the law and not this news release.

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