Glendale has adopted a lobbyist and disclosure ordinance that imposes rules on how city officials and individuals attempting to influence them can interact, with the intent of bringing more transparency to City Hall.
Lobbyists attempting to sway Glendale officials will now have to identify themselves, who they’re working for and how much they’re being paid or risk being slapped with fines or a misdemeanor charge.
City Council members are required to state if they are related to and/or have a current or past business relationship with an individual or organization seeking the city’s ear or vote — including a mutual disclosure requirement for nonprofits pursuing funding.
City board members and commissioners with land-use authority can allocate city funds independent of the council, such as those sitting on the planning and arts and culture commissions, are bound by the same disclosure requirements.
In late February, the City Council unanimously passed the ordinance that has been in development since the fall.
“We owe it to our residents to become the very best city, in terms of transparency and openness,” Mayor Ara Najarian said about a week before the ordinance was adopted.
Initially slated to return to council for consideration in the summer, Najarian said it was expedited so it could pass before his term as mayor is up in April. He has pushed for the rules since becoming mayor last spring.
Each year, lobbyists — whether they’re individuals or firms — will now need to register with the city, according to a report given by Dorine Martirosian, senior assistant city attorney.
Under the ordinance, architects, engineers and design professionals are required to register as lobbyists if they seek contact with city officials about a project after it has been scheduled for a public hearing. They also must register if they wish to have contact with City Council members and some commission members prior to the public hearing announcement.
Those same professionals can still meet with city staff and submit technical documents without registering as lobbyists.
Attorneys must register if their activities rise to the level of lobbying but are exempted when representing a client in a suit involving the city.
“We tried to treat that category of professional — whether it was an architect, engineer or attorney — similarly,” City Atty. Mike Garcia said.
“[If] they’re doing their primary job, what they get paid to do, either drawing plans or representing a client in a matter, that’s exempt. But once they’re advocating for an approval, that’s lobbying,” he added.
City Councilman Vartan Gharpetian questioned the logic of the specific exemption for attorneys’ exemption, as well as the logic of requiring those professionals to register as lobbyists after a public hearing has been set, if their only communication is with city staff.
“If I’m a land-use engineer, and all I do is subdividing for condominiums, and I have 40 projects, I don’t want to be called a lobbyist, to be honest with you, because that’s not lobbying … as long as their communication is still with staff,” Gharpetian said. Ultimately, he voted in favor of the rules.
Los Angeles, Santa Monica and West Hollywood all regulate how lobbyists interact with local elected officials but do not have disclosure requirements for its local officials, according to Martirosian.
Several neighboring cities, including Burbank and Pasadena, do not have lobbyist or disclosure regulations in place.