Najarian contemplates move to protect Metrolink board seat

Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian is considering putting a motion before the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in hopes that seven of his colleagues will vote to overturn a decision to replace him on a rail oversight board.

County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, the incoming chairman of the MTA board of directors, is moving to replace Najarian as a Metrolink director with county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district comes nowhere close to having the rail infrastructure of the Burbank/Glendale corridor.

That has riled Najarian and other public transportation advocates, who say Antonovich’s decision smacks of politics.

Antonovich has said that he and Ridley-Thomas share the same vision for regional transportation in the county, which is why he selected him.

Najarian says the decision may be in retaliation for his support of placing a Measure R tax extension before voters and publicly opposing a tunnel connecting the Long Beach (710) and Foothill (210) freeways.

Najarian said he needs a majority of the 13-member MTA board, which meets Aug. 6 for a special meeting, to side with him to overturn Antonovich’s selection — if he decides to float the motion.

“I think that will probably be enough time for me to decide,” Najarian said.

In the meantime, Najarian said he wants to confer with fellow Glendale City Council members, as well as city staff and members of the community, before making a decision on the motion.

“I don’t take the action lightly, but I do feel strongly that the removal was made for political reasons,” Najarian said, adding that the MTA board should move past such political “vengeance” when dealing with transportation and safety issues regarding Metrolink trains.

A MTA spokesman, who called it an “unusual situation,” said he was not aware of a specific procedure regarding the changing of board appointments. If a motion is brought before the board on Aug. 6, he said the general counsel, who attends all MTA meetings, will be asked how to proceed.

MTA bylaws do put some constraints on the chairman’s powers, particularly once the board has approved a resolution or ordinance, which is how Najarian would theoretically block his replacement.

MTA members who were contacted regarding the spat declined to comment on how they would vote should the motion to overturn Antonovich’s selection be made.

But Richard Katz — the board’s second vice-chairman who said he’s “heard talk” of a possible motion — called Najarian a “valued” member of the Metrolink board.

“He’s been a big, big part of Metrolink’s progress toward being the safest railroad in America,” he said.

Likewise, Pam O’Connor, a Santa Monica City Council member, said she was not aware of Najarian’s potential motion, but called him “prepared and knowledgeable” on Metrolink issues.

“What I do know is that council member Najarian has been a thoughtful [MTA] board member, dedicated to helping his city, sub-region and the county improve transportation options — highway and transit — and relieve congestion,” she said in an email.

Najarian has suggested in a letter to Antonovich that he remain on the Metrolink board and someone from Palmdale be appointed as his alternate.

Antonovich’s communications deputy, Tony Bell, said Friday that he did not know if the supervisor planned any response.

-- Mark Kellam, Times Community News

Twitter: @LAMarkKellam

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