The overall value of county-assessed property in California grew by $ 5 3.8 billion. or 3.1%. In the fiscal year that began July 1. bringing the total to $1.7711 trillion. the State Board of Equalization reported recently.

Percentage increases ranged from a high of 9.9% in Modoc County to 0.1% in Orange County, according to the board's news release.

Only Lassen County, with a 2.4% decrease. experienced a drop in its overall value in fiscal 1994 compared with fiscal 1993. A total of 20 counties grew between 5% and 9.9%. while 33 counties recorded growth rates between 2% and 4.9%. Four counties registered increases of less than 2%.

Of the four counties with assessed value rolls exceeding $100 billion. only Santa Clara County. at 3.5%. attained a growth rate greater than 2%.

Los Angeles County, with the largest assessment roll at $512.4 billion, posted a 1.9% gain. San Diego County, with the third largest roll behind Los Angeles and Orange counties. posted a 1.2% gain.

The value of state-assessed property, mainly privately owned public utilities and railroads. totaled $68.7 billion. That was a 5.2% decrease from fiscal 1993 and "was due, in part, because the assessed value for the utilities was reduced this year as a result of settling longstanding litigation with state assesses," the board's release says.

-- Dennis Walters, Los Angeles

The comptroller at the law firm of a former Los Angeles city councilman last week tentatively agreed to a proposed settlement calling for a $38,000 fine in connection with illegal campaign donations.

The California Fair Commission alleged that Chi May Chen, comptroller at the law office of former Councilman Arthur Snyder, served as a "conduit" in a scheme to conceal the source of political funds and to sidestep limits on contributions.

In August, the Political Practice's Commission and the Los Angeles Ethics Commission levied a record $895,000 penalty against a shipping company, Evergreen America Corp., because of a scheme involving illegal campaign donations. Some of Snyder's relatives and employees were mentioned in connection with that case, though none were charged with any wrongdoing at the time

Chen, however, was identified in the documents as a "primary" middleman in the Evergreen case. The Evergreen documents identified primary middlemen as "persons whom Evergreen directly reimbursed. who in turn either made a direct contribution. or recruited numerous other individuals to make contributions."

Snyder is a well-known lobbyist in Los Angeles and also has worked on municipal bond transactions, including serving as underwriter's counsel on a recent Los Angeles convention center refunding. Snyder has adamantly denied having any link to the illegal contribution investigations, and he has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

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