Glendale police disciplinary appeals agreement challenged

The Glendale Civil Service Commission this week challenged a new agreement that would change the way appeal hearings are heard for disciplined police officers, claiming the revision violates the city charter.

The city adopted a one-year contract in July with the Glendale Police Officers’ Assn. that included an agreement requiring the city and union to agree on a hearing officer, who would lead appeal hearings and make determinations.

Commissioners would then have the final say on whether they decide to approve, reject, reverse or modify the hearing officer's decision “if it is not supported by substantial evidence,” according to a city staff report.

But commissioners on Wednesday expressed concerns that the new agreement may violate city charter rules, which require them to call for their authorized representative to conduct hearings and make findings.

“I see this as a serious problem. I see this as disregard for the city charter,” Commissioner Garo Ghazarian said, adding that he would only agree to the new amendment if the charter was modified.

In adopting the rules, the commission would be passing its authority over the hearings to a representative, who will be part of a panel of hearing officers from the California State Mediation and Conciliation Service or the American Arbitration Assn., according to Lucy Varpetian, senior assistant city attorney.

Ghazarian said he was not “comfortable in having my hands tied, but my name attached to something in the final analysis.”

The new hearing process still requires an amendment to the Civil Service rules, which the commission and City Council must adopt.

During contract negotiations, the city and police union agreed to change the appeal hearing process because of the extensive amount of time the hearings take, both in planning and conducting them. The new hearing process would expire on June 30, 2015.

The Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission has a similar process with a large pool of hearing officers. Glendale’s pool of potential hearing officers would be smaller and must have experience in dealing with employment and mediation issues, according to a city report.

But Commission member Ara Hatamian said he didn’t believe the changes were made because of the amount of time the hearings take.

“I believe it has to do with authority,” he said. “It has to do with who’s going to have the final say and or how we are going to have the commission function when it comes to, for example, reading transcripts.

He added that the commissioners hope the public and city officials who appointed them trust them enough to know that they read all documents in every case and make decisions based on what they’ve read. .

“Something like that doesn’t necessary have to be spelled out,” Hatamian said. “It should be discretionary.”

He expressed concerns about the City Council’s review of the amendment.

“If we are now questioning the legality of this document, then there is something wrong with the system of how this thing was adopted,” Hatamian said.

Commission member Sam Manoukian said the process shouldn’t be limited to police, and should be applied to all city employees.

Human Resource Director Matt Doyle agreed that the commission raised some issues that needed to be examined closely.

City Attorney Michael Garcia suggested submitting a legal analysis to address commission members’ concerns.

“I think there are going to be legal and policy issues with this proposal,” he said.


Follow Veronica Rocha on Google+ and on Twitter: @VeronicaRochaLA.


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