Several times over the past year Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian said he’s taken meetings with individuals he thought were simply concerned residents expressing their thoughts on a local development project or city contract, only to find out down the line that they were paid industry or company representatives.
“You feel bad. You feel fooled,” Najarian said. “And it’s not the way I think we should be conducting our government in Glendale.”
Now, Glendale officials are taking steps to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
Last Tuesday, Glendale City Council members directed the city attorney’s office to draft an ordinance that would require lobbyists — individuals or firms paid to influence government officials — to identify themselves, who they’re working for and how much they’re being compensated.
Each year, lobbyists would need to register with the city for a fee or face possible civil or criminal penalties, according to a report given by Dorine Martirosian, senior assistant city attorney, during the City Council meeting.
Quarterly reports with the information would be available to City Council members and the public, under the tentative regulations.
If the ordinance is adopted, Glendale would join cities like Los Angeles, Santa Monica and West Hollywood, which all regulate how lobbyists interact with local elected officials, according to Martirosian.
Many neighboring cities, including Burbank and Pasadena, do not have regulations in place, she added.
“I want Glendale to be at the forefront of open and transparent government,” Najarian said after the meeting. He announced his intention to draft rules for lobbyists when he became mayor for the fourth time in April.
As part of the proposed ordinance, council members would be required to disclose if they’re related to and/or have a business relationship with anyone working with or asking something of the city.
There was support to require council members to also disclose if they are part of the same community or religious organization that someone coming before the city belongs to.
Disclosure by a council member of a current or past relationship with someone seeking an entitlement, contract or hearing decision would not mean that the council member would have to recuse themselves from decisions related to that person, according to City Atty. Mike Garcia.
No timeline has been set for drafting the ordinance, but it is expected to return in the “near future” for consideration, according to Glendale city spokeswoman Eliza Papazian.