Peer says Drayman charges feel 'like a punch in the stomach'

Reaction to charges Tuesday that former Councilman John Drayman embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the popular Montrose Harvest Market ranged from shock to disappointment.

Perhaps the most pointed reaction to the charges contained in the indictment — unsealed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court — were from those active in North Glendale and La Crescenta, which have long been bastions of political support for Drayman.

“It just really feels like a punch in the stomach,” said Steve Pierce, a community “ambassador” for the Montrose Shopping Park Assn., which operates the Harvest Market.

While he was once a Drayman supporter, the former councilman’s fall from grace had let him and others down.

“He was such a hero up here,” Pierce said. “There’s a lot that he did and now everyone thinks of him as a crook.”

Ken Grayson, president of the Montrose Shopping Park Assn., said he was glad the charges were aired after almost a year of board members biting their tongues about the investigation. Allegations from the board sparked the Glendale police investigation.

“John Drayman did a number of very positive things for the Montrose Shopping Park, but he also did some very improper things,” he said. “I’m glad it’s finally caught up to him.”

After setting up an oversight committee to track the shopping park’s revenues and expenses, the association reported 2011 income of nearly $140,000 from the market, more than the roughly $40,000 that was originally expected. For 2012, officials expect the market to make about $130,000.

Drayman was indicted in Los Angeles Superior Court on charges that he embezzled between $304,000 and $880,000 over seven years from a weekly farmers market that he helped organize in North Glendale up until last year.

Drayman pleaded not guilty to the charges, which also include forgery, money laundering and filing falsified tax returns.

Reaction among his former colleagues on the City Council tended more to disappointment.

“I’m very disappointed and sad,” said Mayor Frank Quintero. “You always hope that someone you’ve known hasn’t been involved in anything illegal.”

During the yearlong investigation, Councilman Ara Najarian said his colleagues were kept in the dark.

While he said he didn’t plan to cast judgment on Drayman until after the outcome of a trial, he conceded that the indictment would likely darken the public’s perception of others on the council.

“Whenever anyone is accused of committing a crime who is a former elected official, it doesn’t cast any of us in the best light,” Najarian said.

Drayman lost his reelection bid last April after the embezzlement investigation and other issues with a controversial renovation to his condominium were aired during the campaign.

Drayman has been mired in controversy over a 2010 condo renovation that has been linked to subcontractors of Advanced Development Inc., an affordable housing developer that allegedly bilked Glendale out of millions of dollars.

Despite the controversies, Drayman has maintained a loyal following. During his indictment, several supporters packed the courtroom, including Realtor Nancy Morris, and Jeff Decker, who was described in court Tuesday as his life partner. Decker managed the craft and collectibles part of the Harvest Market, but his contract was terminated in December.

“I personally think this is a witch hunt,” Morris said after the hearing, adding that Drayman was an “upright citizen” and caring individual.

But Grayson said longtime Drayman supporters, like Morris, would likely be grappling with the charges in the aftermath of the indictment.

“There’s a lot of people that respect John and like John,” Grayson said. “This will be a very difficult thing for them to understand.”

Staff writer Veronica Rocha contributed to this report.

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