Touted as a win for government transparency, Glendale City Council members last week moved closer to adopting rules that would require lobbyists attempting to sway local officials to identify themselves, who they’re working for and how much they’re being compensated.
Introduced Feb. 11, the ordinance is slated to return to council for potential adoption this summer.
“We owe it to our residents to become the very best city, in terms of transparency and openness,” Mayor Ara Najarian said during the recent council meeting, adding that he thinks it’s one of local residents’ top concerns.
Each year, lobbyists — both individuals and firms — would need to register with the city for a small fee or face possible civil or criminal penalties, according to a report given by Dorine Martirosian, senior assistant city attorney, during the meeting.
Quarterly reports with the information would be available to council members and the public under the tentative regulations.
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.
Council members will also need to disclose if they are part of the same community or religious organization as someone who is coming before the council.
During the recent meeting, council members directed staff to extend the same disclosure requirements to city commissioners with land-use authority and/or can allocate city funds independent of the council.
City officials who fail to make the required disclosures will not face criminal or civil penalties, but their actions on relevant matters could be nullified, according to Martirosian.
During the recent meeting, there was some debate about exactly who constitutes a lobbyist, with most of the discussion centered on architects, lawyers and engineers contracted for local projects.
Ultimately, council members decided to require those professionals to register if and when their behavior rises to level of lobbying, such as meeting privately with council members for the purpose of promoting a particular project.
Meetings requested by city staff for informational reasons will not be considered lobbying.
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, Martirosian said in October.
Several neighboring cities, including Burbank and Pasadena, do not have regulations in place, she added.
Najarian has pushed for the new rules since becoming mayor for the fourth time last April. In October, the council directed staff members to begin drafting an ordinance.
“This would become such a milestone for the city of Glendale, something we can really be proud of,” Najarian said during the recent meeting, addressing his fellow council members. “[It’s something] you can brag about for the next few weeks, and I’ll be glad to brag with you.”