Think Again: Having the courage to speak out

Looking for violations of ethics and integrity in government always yields interesting results. Our federal government points fingers at developing countries for their crude corruption thousands of miles away. But they are slow to recognize the more sophisticated fraud in our country where the financial stakes are much higher. We often don't call it corruption because the actors wear expensive suits.

In Iraq, billions of tax dollars have flowed in for reconstruction, in pallet after pallet of $100 bills. The U.S. special inspector general for Iraq was asked to account for it but hasn't been able to track down more than $50 billion with reports of senior U.S. officials involved in large-scale corruption.

Billions more are going to "Beltway Bandit" subcontractors, many in no-bid contracts. Research the consulting firm Tetra Tech DPK and you'll find they were hired to implement "rule of law" programs in Afghanistan. Ironically, their consultants have been staying in a five-star hotel in Kabul for five months at $400 per night teaching Afghans how to fly kites, literally.

Thankfully, one consultant blew the whistle on the scam and how 92% of their $35-million contract was paying for nothing more than six-figure salaries and expenses.

These wars are sucking taxpayer dollars into the abyss while millions of people at home have lost their jobs, our infrastructure is crumbling, and schools are laying teachers off.

Back home, billions were stolen from our middle class by the robber barons of Wall Street in sophisticated schemes to defraud investors. Goldman Sachs and other banks manipulated the mortgage system and, after having robbed us out of home and retirement savings, we bailed them out. They held a gun to our heads warning that if the financial system collapsed, we'd lose all of our savings.

Then there is the city of Bell scheme. This involves former Glendale Police Chief Randy Adams, who thus far has avoided the colorful prison jumpsuits that Bell City Council members are wearing. They're investigating his situation, but many may have known what he was doing, including in Glendale. But nobody said anything to avoid disturbing the status quo, and this has cost Glendale taxpayers.

In March 2009, I spoke out regarding the Glendale Police Department's poor handling of a case where a youth was wrongfully jailed for almost two years that cost Glendale taxpayers almost $1.5 million in a jury verdict. Despite the verdict, several members of the Glendale City Council and staff continued to vocally defend Adams and sing his praises.

I wrote in the Glendale News-Press calling on the city's leadership to closely examine what went wrong in that situation instead of defending Adams, but they didn't. Now that the bandwagon is going in a different direction, all of a sudden everyone is speaking out against him because that is the popular thing to do.

The latest in our city is about alleged fraud perpetrated by Advanced Development & Investment, which was building affordable housing with the "help" of $33.8 million in city assistance. ADI allegedly inflated estimates by submitting fraudulent invoices for projects and now Glendale citizens are left holding the bag. We'll see where this situation leads.

The question is, where was the oversight of these projects? On the one hand, we squeeze city employees to help meet tight budgets, while on the other hand the city loses millions of dollars to possible fraud and lawsuit after lawsuit.

As citizens, whether on the federal, state or local level, we want competence and transparency in government, with decisions made in the public interest. We want checks and balances and, when something doesn't smell right, we want leaders who can break from the status quo and show the courage to speak out. That's real leadership.

Finally, fraud isn't confined to any particular race, income class, organization or government, so when it's found, we want to see it prosecuted without mercy.

ZANKU ARMENIAN is a resident of Glendale and a corporate communications professional. He can be reached at

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World