Glendale city treasurer candidate may lose even with a win

Come next election, Glendale voters will be choosing a new city treasurer. But they may also have to decide whether they want to keep voting for that position or turn it into an appointment made by the city manager.

In recent years, Glendale has had a tough time attracting candidates to run for the position. Now that there’s a possibility people may run for a position that ceases to exist, some community leaders are wondering, “Who’s going to run?”

“If it’s been difficult to attract qualified candidates before, I’m not sure how this helps,” said City Treasurer Ron Borucki, who is in favor of an appointed treasurer.

The Glendale City Council voted 3-2 this week to get the ball rolling on a ballot measure that would ask voters if they’d prefer an appointed treasurer to an elected one, with Councilmen Ara Najarian and Rafi Manoukian dissenting.

Proponents of the measure say all elections are risky.

“Cut the umbilical cord. It’s an election, win or lose,” said Councilman Dave Weaver, who spearheaded putting the measure on the April 2013 ballot.

The council must still vote on a final resolution, which will be written between now and the end of the year, said City Atty. Mike Garcia. Putting the measure on the ballot could cost between $26,000 and $47,000, according to a city report.

Of the 482 cities in the state, 143, including neighboring Burbank, elect their treasurers.

Council members who want the city manager to appoint a treasurer, much like other department heads, said the job takes banking and investing expertise. They don’t want someone who may be good at getting elected, but fails at investing, to be responsible for the city’s $400-million investment portfolio.

But opponents say that’s not giving voters enough credit.

“I believe that the voters know what they’re doing,” said Manoukian, who has run unsuccessfully for treasurer.

A group of community leaders selected to make recommendations about changes to the city charter about 10 years ago decided against an appointed treasurer in favor of keeping the power in the hands of the electorate. Since voters elected qualified candidates in the past, the commission didn’t see a need for change.

“The thought was, ‘If something isn’t broken, why fix it?’” said Eileen Givens, a commissioner and former council member.

The electorate has voted on the idea of appointing a city treasurer in 1943, 1972 and 1979, but this is the first time the issue will be on the ballot at the same time the seat is up for election.

“Voters don’t like to delegate the election to other people,” said Bob Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies.

If the measure passes and a candidate wins the election, it could make for an awkward situation. Garcia said the City Council could allow the winner to work for two to four years before the appointment process takes hold. But that didn’t gain traction on the dais.

“It puts the city in a very interesting position,” said City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian. “Anything can happen in terms of elections. We are hoping that the outcome is clear, decisive and one way or another.”

The city manager could appoint an interim treasurer, should the measure pass, before settling on a permanent choice, Garcia said.

A candidate who wins the election, but who gets booted due to the appointment measure, has no legal recourse, experts on elections law said.

But Loyola Law Professor Justin Levitt said the added risk may act as a deterrent.

“It is not going to stop everybody from running for this position, but everybody who is running will certainly have it in mind,” he said.

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