Glendale City Council hopefuls feel the heat at forum

The final City Council candidate forum Wednesday was perhaps the most direct in calling candidates out on their perceived faults.

From having Councilwoman Laura Friedman defend her voting record to asking longtime City Hall critic Herbert Molano how he could work with the very municipal employees he's bashed for years, several of the 10 candidates were forced to defend their reputations as they face the April 2 election.

Two candidates, Chahe Keuroghelian and Zareh Sinanyan, were absent from the forum hosted by the Northwest Homeowners Assn. at New Life Christian Church.

Friedman said she was unapologetic of her votes that some may consider an interference of personal choice, such as her approval of banning single-use plastic bags from Glendale grocery and convenience stores. She added that Glendale wasn't alone in banning plastic bags, but rather was following Los Angeles County and several cities across the state.

“If we're being a nanny city, so is the county,” Friedman said.

For his part, Molano denied that he had overly criticized city officials, although he has called many corrupt.

“I do not agree with your basic premise,” he said to moderator Will Rogers.

Rogers also called out Councilman Ara Najarian for seemingly abandoning Friedman last week when the council discussed removing Sinanyan from his seat on a city commission because he allegedly posted vulgar comments online.

Both incumbents worked together to put the item considering Sinanyan's removal on the council agenda, but when it came time to vote, Najarian chose to preserve Sinanyan's spot on the Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee because there was “a shadow of a doubt that those [comments] were actually his.”

Najarian said he didn't want to push for Sinanyan's removal because Councilman Rafi Manoukian threatened to reveal information Najarian wouldn't want publicized.

“I took those threats quite seriously,” he said.

To that, Rogers opined: “What is he worried about?”

When asked what they would have done, several of the other candidates said they would have removed Sinanyan.

Sinanyan has not directly denied that he wrote comments, which mostly center around Armenia's geopolitical enemies, posted on YouTube and other sites. However, he has said the comments do not reflect his values and ideals.

Longtime City Hall players weren't the only ones who faced tough questions.

Newcomer Jefferson Black was criticized for saying he was on the board of the Adams Hill Homeowner's Assn. when he is not, as well as claiming he's a city activist. Black said he was a board member in the 1990s and called himself an activist because he led an unsuccessful push to paint curbs red in his neighborhood several years ago.

Former city employees also felt the heat.

Edith Fuentes, the city's former zoning administrator, was criticized for decisions she made that led to expensive lawsuits. Fuentes defended her decisions, saying she worked within the city's code.

Although she was demoted, Fuentes won a $200,000 settlement from the city and was allowed to retire at her highest salary last year after several Civil Service Commission hearings.

Another retiree, ex-Neighborhood Services Administrator Sam Engel, was asked how he could lead the city if he didn't stand up to higher-ups when they told him not to go after former Councilman John Drayman, who had not filed appropriate building permits for an extensive home renovation in 2010.

Engel explained that he was just following orders.

“We work in a bureaucracy,” he said.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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