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Glendale sues resident, alleges his argument in favor of tax repeal contains misinformation

Glendale City Hall

A complaint filed by City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian states resident Bill Taliaferro listed incorrect data when he wrote an argument in favor of Measure N that is slated to be placed on the ballot.

(Roger Wilson / Staff Photographer)

The city of Glendale is suing one of the main proponents of a ballot measure to repeal the city’s utility users tax, alleging he used inaccurate information that could mislead voters ahead of an election in June.

A complaint filed by City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian states resident Bill Taliaferro listed incorrect data when he wrote an argument in favor of Measure N that is slated to be placed on the ballot. He and a few others collected enough signatures to put the measure before voters on June 7.

Taliaferro was selected by the city to write the argument in favor of the repeal, while the City Council worked on a statement about why Measure N should be rejected.

The complaint alleges seven accounts of misinformation.

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A court hearing is scheduled for April 5 before an L.A. Superior Court judge. City Atty. Mike Garcia said he hopes the court will strike the allegedly incorrect language or compel Taliaferro to rewrite his argument.

Taliaferro wrote the repeal of the utility users tax on water and electricity would reduce $17 million from city income annually, a 2% loss to the General Fund.

However, the city claims in the complaint that the correct figure is $17.5 million annually, and that the loss equates to 9% of the General Fund.

Garcia called Taliaferro’s written argument “demonstratively untrue” and “misleading.”

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“As the saying goes, you’re entitled to your opinion, just not your own facts,” Garcia said in an email.

Garcia said city staffers met with Taliaferro, who declined to change the argument language.

Taliaferro wouldn’t comment on the pending litigation, only saying he hopes the court will resolve it.

However, he has spoken with the News-Press in the past about why he circulated the petition to get enough signatures to put a utility users tax repeal in motion.

He said he’s not a fan of taxes, and there’s plenty of room where the city could trim some fat.

“Government elites enjoy pay, pensions and job security the average taxpayer can only dream about,” Taliaferro wrote in his argument.

Both pro and con statements are available for viewing on glendalevotes.org.

Taliaferro also wrote that the average pay and benefits for a city employee in 2014 was $105,211, while the median income for a Glendale resident was $45,235.

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The complaint countered that the actual average pay and benefits for a city employee two years ago was $82,831 and the average median income for a resident was $52,451.

City officials cannot take a position on Measure N, but they are embarking on a mail campaign to 55,000 registered-voter households, said city spokesman Tom Lorenz.

Written by various city departments with a price tag of about $25,000, the pamphlet outlines significant cuts the City Council may have to enact to make up for the $17.5-million loss, such as a reduction in police and fire services or elimination of local libraries.

The utility users tax was established in 1969, and is a 7% tax on water, electricity and gas bills.

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Arin Mikailian, arin.mikailian@latimes.com

Twitter: @ArinMikailian

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