Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian said he now has reason to believe he and his wife, Palmira Perez, were asked to leave a recent local homeowner’s association event because of her Latino heritage.
Already accused by Glendale City Councilman Vartan Gharpetian of ethnic discrimination for being told to leave the same event on Sept. 8, the Royal Canyon Homeowner’s Assn. posted a statement apologizing, but denying discrimination, on its website Tuesday morning.
“Offending him was never the intent,” according to the statement. “For anyone to allege that the actions were premeditated and racist in nature is absolutely inaccurate.”
The letter only addressed Councilman Vartan Gharpetian, who maintains he was booted from the Summer Social event because he is Armenian. It does not mention Najarian or his wife.
“It didn’t dawn on me until I got this letter from them,” Najarian said Wednesday morning.
“It makes you think really, what was the message they were trying to convey, and why wouldn’t they apologize to me and my Mexican wife,” he added.
Perez is a news anchor and reporter with Noticias Univision 14 KDTV.
Armine Hacopian, one of the association’s board members, said she was shocked by the mayor’s accusations.
“This has become a racial issue and it really wasn’t,” said Hacopian, who is of Armenian descent.
“We have all kinds of diverse families living in the area,” she added. “So, to assume that this HOA has an agenda of racism is unacceptable,” adding that it was her understanding that the mayor was not asked to leave and never came inside the house.
When the incident happened, Perez immediately suspected it might have something to do with her being Latina, Najarian said.
Najarian said he denied her assumption at the time.
“When I said there was no racism in it, I was blindly looking at the Armenian side of it,” Najarian said of his initial stance.
Gharpetian left the event feeling “extremely offended and discriminated against” after he was asked to leave by association president Beth Volpe because it was a members-only gathering, he said during a City Council meeting on Sept. 10.
Volpe, however, attributed the “uncomfortable situation” on Sept. 8 to a misunderstanding when she spoke during the same council meeting.
The Summer Social is the association’s sole members-only event, requires an affirmative reservation and is meant to be nonpolitical in nature, she said. She later added that prospective members were also invited to attend.
Because the event was intended to be purely social, “it changed the dynamic of the event suddenly” when Gharpetian showed up and appeared to be politicking, Volpe said during a phone interview after the claims were made last week.
Gharpetian said that before Volpe got involved, her husband, Joseph, approached him in a hostile manner, accused of him of talking politics and said he was “not one of us.” Joseph Volpe is not one of the association’s board members.
Nothing was said specifically about Gharpetian’s ethnicity, but “he didn’t have to,” Gharpetian said in a phone interview on Sept. 11. “His tone of voice, the hate in his face and his eyes — it was clear,” he said.
Fellow council member Paula Devine, who is a member of the association, was at the event, presenting a commendation from the city, but left before either Gharpetian or Najarian arrived.
Both Devine and Gharpetian are up for reelection in March.
Regardless of the association’s motivations, it “was in the wrong,” Devine said during a council meeting Tuesday night.
“This matter needs to be proactively addressed through dialogue with the association’s leadership so that it can be brought to a constructive conclusion,” she said.
Devine did not speak during the previous council meeting when the issue was addressed. After that meeting, she said in an email she did not initially comment because she did not witness the events firsthand and did not feel she could make an accurate judgment about what had transpired.
While the association’s statement was posted on Tuesday, City Council members likely did not see it until it was sent to them directly earlier on Wednesday, Hacopian said.
Gharpetian said on Tuesday he had, to date, received only two letters, one from Beth Volpe and another from a board member, but that no one from the association had called him to discuss how to take steps to prevent a similar incident from occurring.
Going forward, he said he would devote himself to fighting discrimination in the city.
“I’ve been criticized for speaking the truth, and I’ve been praised for my bravery,” Gharpetian said of coming forward with his accusations last week. “But none of this matters if we don’t do anything about it.”
Gharpetian asked City Manager Yasmin Beers to look into programs and training that could possibly be implemented citywide.
Before there can be positive change, Najarian said there needs to be accountability within the community.
“At this point, I don’t think we’ve admitted we have a problem,” he said. “We’ve got to [admit] it was more than just a miscommunication or misunderstanding. This is deeper than what happened to Vartan.”
Gharpetian and Beth Volpe did not respond to requests for follow-up interviews.