NORTH GLENDALE — Glendale City Council candidates were put on the hot seat Thursday during an election forum in which they were forced to address issues ranging from personal bankruptcy filings to the role of religion in politics.
Former City Councilman Rafi Manoukian, self-described “city watchdog” Mike Mohill, perennial candidate Chahe Keuroghelian and City Hall newcomer Garen Mailyan are challenging incumbents Dave Weaver and John Drayman for two seats in the April 5 election.
The scrutiny came during a forum at the Brand Library hosted by the Northwest Glendale Homeowners Assn. and moderated by former News-Press columnist Will Rogers, who peppered the candidates with a variety of questions written by the leadership of the Northwest Glendale Homeowners Assn. and moderator Will Rogers.
Many of the questions candidates were asked to answer dealt with their past, such as Keuroghelian’s termination from the Glendale Police Department and Manoukian’s decades-old financial troubles.
Keuroghelian was fired by the Glendale Police Department in 2001 after a jury convicted him for displaying a firearm in a rude, angry or threatening manner. He has said he hopes voters can look past the incident.
During his 2009 campaign for city treasurer, Manoukian acknowledged that he had filed for Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy protection in the 1990s, which he said was due to being left with a new mortgage shortly after losing his job during the last economic downturn.
When asked to address his personal financial background on Tuesday, Manoukian said he has turned his life around and that the decades-old filing has little bearing on his ability to guide the city’s finances.
“I made the right decision then, and I think it’s time to move on,” he said.
Other candidates were asked to tackle more recent controversies, such as renovations performed by subcontractors of Advanced Development & Investment Inc., an affordable housing firm under federal investigation for fraud allegations, at Drayman’s condo in Montrose.
When asked whether he acknowledges that questions surrounding the renovation could lead voters to “have grave concerns about your judgment and the research you did,” Drayman countered that it is only frequent city critics who have expressed alarm.
“I’ve campaigned across this city for months now, and I haven’t heard this grave concern,” he said.
Mohill, whose campaign has consisted largely of attacks on Drayman and Weaver, was asked to address his tactic of leveling accusations, rather than touting his own abilities.
“That’s what motivated me to run for this city office,” he said, citing Weaver’s $9,000-fine in 2009 from the Fair Political Practices Commission for violating state campaign finance law, and Drayman’s condo renovations.
Mailyan, a relative newcomer to City Hall, once again declined to discuss any public-service background.
“Jesus says, don’t let your right hand know what your left hand has done,” he said.
He was also asked to address his frequent religious references during the campaign, which he said did not mean he was trying to force his beliefs on others.
“I am a born-again Christian,” he said. “I am not ashamed of that, and I don’t force any one into that.”
No candidate escaped the hot seat, with Weaver asked whether he was running for a fifth term because he needs the income.
“That’s absolutely not true,” he said.
City Council members are paid an annual salary of approximately $38,000.
He was also asked to address his common refrain — that his decades as a civil engineer brings a valuable perspective to the dais, despite what the question writer contended was history of projects coming in over budget and behind schedule.
Weaver called that characterization a “gross misrepresentation,” but said budget overruns are common in general, including those he was involved with during his own career. It is city staff now, he said, who control city projects.
“Council members do not run the city,” he said. “We have staff to do it.”